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Japan warns on oil prices after pirates attack tanker off Yemen

Daily Telegraph: Japan warns on oil prices after pirates attack tanker off Yemen

By Russell Hotten
Last Updated: 1:00am BST 22/04/2008

Oil and gas prices have hit new highs, spelling more pain for consumers and businesses.

Oil reached a record $117.40 a barrel at one stage yesterday, dragging up the price of gas to a new peak, amid concerns about crude supplies after a Japanese tanker was attacked in the Middle East and militants blew up a Royal Dutch Shell pipeline in Nigeria.

The head of Opec dashed hopes that members of the oil producers’ cartel might help ease prices by opening the taps, telling a conference in Rome that there is no shortage of crude on world markets.

Oil for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose to a record $117.40 a barrel, before falling back to $116.63. Oil prices had touched $117 on Friday. In the UK, gas for delivery over the next six months rose 5.1pc to 83.6p a therm.

Malcolm Wicks, UK energy minister, acknowledged that the rises are hurting.

He told the conference: “Record prices for energy are hitting businesses and they’re hitting the domestic customer.”

But there is little the Government can do, with prices being driven by geopolitical events and speculation by oil traders.

Yesterday, off the coast of Yemen, a Japanese tanker was hit by a rocket. Meanwhile, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta warned that it would intensify attacks on Shell pipelines.

Abdalla Salem el-Badri, secretary-general of Opec, said on Sunday that oil prices would likely go higher, but that he doubted there was a need to raise output.

“Oil prices – there is a common understanding that has nothing to do with supply and demand,” Mr el-Badri said.

Over the weekend, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that crude oil prices at $115 a barrel are too low, and that oil must “discover its real value”.

However, Opec was warned that high energy prices threatened economic growth.

“Oil prices are at an extraordinary high level today,” said Akira Amari, Japan’s economy, trade and industry minister.

“I have been repeatedly stating my strong sense of crisis that the global economy would suffer a setback if these conditions are left as they are.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/04/22/cnoil122.xml

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