Oil-Price Estimate for 2011 Increased 8.5% by U.S. on Growing Fuel Demand

The U.S. Energy Department increased its crude oil price forecast for 2011 on projections that accelerating economic growth will bolster fuel demand.

West Texas Intermediate oil, the U.S. benchmark, will average $93.42 a barrel this year, up from December’s forecast of $86.08, the department said today in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Prices in 2012 will average $97.50, $2.07 short of a record $99.57 in 2008.

The department raised its outlook for global oil consumption this year to 88.02 million barrels a day from 87.78 million estimated last month. Demand will climb to 89.65 million barrels a day in 2012. This is the first outlook to include forecasts through 2012.

“Global demand is running at record levels,” said Tancred Lidderdale, an economist with the department’s Energy Information Administration in Washington, who helped write the report. “This growth is coming from the emerging markets. We’re still well off our previous peak here and in Europe.”

U.S. oil consumption will average 19.29 million barrels a day in 2011, up 240,000 barrels from last month’s forecast. Next year demand is projected to climb to 19.46 million.

Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, will cost $3.17 a gallon this year, up 5.7 percent from $3 estimated in the December report. The fuel will average $3.29 a gallon in 2012, surpassing the record $3.26 in 2008.

U.S. heating oil users will spend an average $2,291 this winter, up 5.3 percent from $2,176 forecast last month and 20 percent higher than the average $1,910 spent by households last winter. The cost per gallon will average $3.28 this heating season, up 10 cents from last month’s estimate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Shenk in New York at mshenk1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net.

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