From the mid-1980s to September 2003, the inflation-adjusted price of a barrel of crude oil on NYMEX was generally under $25/barrel. During 2003, the price rose above $30, reached $60 by 11 August 2005, and peaked at $147.30 in July 2008. Commentators attributed these price increases to many factors, including the falling value of the U.S. dollar, reports from the United States Department of Energy and others showing a decline in petroleum reserves worries over peak oil, Middle East tension, and oil price speculation.
For a time, geo-political events and natural disasters indirectly related to the global oil market had strong short-term effects on oil prices, such as North Korean missile tests, the 2006 conflict between Israel and Lebanon, worries over Iranian nuclear plans in 2006, Hurricane Katrina, and various other factors. By 2008, such pressures appeared to have an insignificant impact on oil prices given the onset of the global recession. The recession caused demand for energy to shrink in late 2008, with oil prices falling from the July 2008 high of $147 to a December 2008 low of $32. Oil prices stabilized by October 2009 and established a trading range between $60 and $80.
According to informed observers, OPEC, meeting in early December 2007, seemed to desire a high but stable price that would deliver substantial needed income to the oil producing states, but avoid prices so high that they would negatively impact the economies of the oil consuming nations. A range of 70–80 dollars a barrel was suggested by some analysts to be OPEC's goal.
Some analysts point out that major oil exporting countries are rapidly developing; and because they are using more oil domestically, less oil may be available on the international market. This effect, outlined in the export land economic model, could significantly reduce the oil available for trade and cause prices to continue to rise. Particularly significant are Indonesia (which is now a net importer of oil), Mexico and Iran (where demand is projected to exceed production in about 5 years), and Russia (whose domestic petroleum demand is growing rapidly).
In May 2008, T. Boone Pickens, an influential oil investor who believes the world’s oil output is about to peak, predicted oil prices would hit $150 a barrel by the end of the year. “Eighty-five million barrels of oil a day is all the world can produce, and the demand is 87 m,” Mr Pickens said in an interview with CNBC. “It’s just that simple.”
In June 2008, Alexei Miller, head of Russian energy giant Gazprom, warned that the price of oil is likely to hit $250 a barrel sometime in 2009. Miller said that while speculation had played a role in oil prices, "this influence was not decisive." Bloomberg reported that, as of mid-June, "At least 3,008 options contracts have been purchased giving holders the right to buy oil at $250 a barrel in December."
Also in June 2008, Shukri Ghanem, head of Libya's National Oil Corporation, said: "I think it [the oil price] will go higher. That is a trend that will continue for some time. The easy, cheap oil is over, peak oil is looming."
On 26 June 2008, OPEC President Chakib Khelil said in an interview: "I forecast prices probably between $150–170 during this summer. That will perhaps ease towards the end of the year." Iran's OPEC governor Mohammad-Ali Khatibi predicts that the price of oil would reach $150 a barrel by the end of this summer.
Near-term peak oil proponent Matthew Simmons predicts a rise to $300 a barrel or higher by 2013 as sweet crude petroleum becomes more scarce and major producers begin failing to meet demand.
In November, as prices fell below $60 a barrel, the IEA warned that falling prices may create both a lack of investment in new sources of oil and a fall in production of more expensive unconventional reserves such as the oil sands of Canada. The IEA's chief economist warned, "Oil supplies in the future will come more and more from smaller and more difficult fields," meaning that future production requires more investment every year. A lack of new investment in such projects, which had already been observed, could eventually cause new and more severe supply issues than had been experienced in the early 2000s according to the IEA. Because the sharpest production declines had been seen in developed countries, the IEA warned that the greatest growth in production was expected to come from smaller projects in OPEC states, raising their world production share from 44% in 2008 to a projected 51% in 2030. The IEA also pointed out that demand from the developed world may have also peaked, so that future demand growth was likely to come from developing nations such as China, contributing 43%, and India and the Middle East, each about 20%).