The price of crude oil and growing tensions with Iran are bubbling to the top of economists’ and policymakers’ worry lists for 2012, as U.S. and European Union sanctions threaten to reduce the sales of Iranian oil and put pressure on one of the world’s largest petroleum exporters.
“It’s been in the background for quite some time,” said Edward Yardeni, a leading investment strategist. “I’ve characterized it as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse for 2012. Now it’s come from behind to be at the head of the pack.”
The push for tighter sanctions on Iranian oil exports comes at a time when oil prices are already high. Last year was a record-shattering year for oil prices, which averaged $107 a barrel, about 14 percent more than in the previous record year of 2008, according to figures from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The U.S. oil import bill — for crude and refined products — jumped about $125 billion from 2010 to 2011.