Oil prices have been driven into new territory, reaching their highest level since futures trading began 21 years ago. For drivers it means ever-higher prices at the pump.
Houston prices jumped 9.1 cents in the past week. This means drivers with SUVs pumping 20 gallons of gasoline are now paying $36.08, up from $27.40 this time last year.
And these prices suggest a lot of influential players in the oil markets are in a panic over oil supplies.
The prices reflect a huge premium based on a long list of worries: Can overtaxed refiners be able to supply this sky-high market? Will attacks disrupt the vital flow of crude from the Middle East? Will a comment that Russia won't keep increasing its exports mean there won't be enough crude to satisfy China's seemingly insatiable appetite for more oil?
But ultimately the big question is, will there be enough gasoline for the summer driving season?
The sum of all these fears is the average national retail price of gasoline has hit $1.95 per gallon. Houston's average pump price now averages $1.80 for regular, and the premium grade commonly is over $2 a gallon, reports Chron.com
According to Indolink.com continuing its upward trend, the price of crude oil on Saturday hit a record high in New York and gained in London as concerns about supply and security persist. American light crude closed at $41.38 a barrel, up 30 cents from the previous day.
In London, Brent Crude climbed to $38.40, reaching levels last seen following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Airlines such as British Airways and Qantas, meanwhile, already have raised prices to offset higher fuel costs.
World crude prices have now added more than 25% in the last year.
"If you look at the way this market is rallying, it's been broad-based and gradual, relentlessly going higher," said Dennis Kongsiri of Mitsui & Co.
However, in real terms, oil prices remain far below the levels they reached during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when output restrictions by producers' cartel OPEC caused serious shortages.
OPEC is considering a proposal from Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest exporter, to raise output by 1.5 million barrels a day.
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia is planning to release between 500,000 and one million barrels onto world markets from next month.
Warnings from a senior Russian official that deliveries from the world's second biggest oil exporter have hit a ceiling after many years of growth underlined the strain on global supply.
"Realistically, the capacity of suppliers does not today meet growing demand in places such as China or India. And you have to take into account the state of affairs in Iraq," Semyon Vainshtok, head of Russia's oil pipeline monopoly, told Reuters.
Economic expansion in China, bolstered by renewed U.S. growth, has placed world supplies under increasing strain, leaving OPEC, except for its top producer Saudi Arabia, pumping almost flat out to meet demand, informs Reuters.com
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