Published: February 19, 2011
PARIS — The turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East has helped drive oil prices up to more than $102 a barrel for an important benchmark crude, Brent, although so far there have been no significant disruptions in production or supply, according to experts at the International Energy Agency here.
While Egypt and Tunisia have little oil, Libya is one of Africa’s largest holders of crude oil reserves, Algeria and Iran are major suppliers and Bahrain and Yemen both border Saudi Arabia on the peninsula that produces most of the world’s oil. Together, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran represent about 10 percent of global oil production.
Oil markets are famously skittish, especially when there is even the possibility of disruptions in the Middle East and North Africa, which account for some 35 percent of the world’s oil production and a greater percentage of the world’s known reserves.
And that nervousness is likely to spread elsewhere, with so many economies still fragile in the wake of the worldwide economic downturn and with the possibility that higher crude prices could lead to further increases in food prices. The high cost of food has already led to unrest in several countries, even before political revolts began in the Middle East.
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