Like just about any other commodity, the price of oil changes quite often, usually by the minute or even by the second. There are so many reasons why they happen, but what are they? From environmental factors to issues concerning trade balances and government stability, there are several causes to look out for, particularly if you have a keen interest in the oil markets.
The first is production levels. If major oil-producing nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela produce fewer barrels of oil than usual, the price of oil is likely to rise. Conversely, if production rises, the opposite should happen to the price. Oil production is usually agreed through OPEC, although individual member states are allowed to set their own rates.
Another factor behind changing oil prices is the environment. Examples of this include natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina making it difficult to extract oil from offshore rigs, new reserves being discovered and levels of oil in existing reserves becoming depleted.
Man-made events in oil-producing regions impact on the cost of fuel as well. Wars and political disagreements can hamper oil production. Conflicts in Iraq and Libya have had a profound impact on oil prices, with production greatly reduced during wars in those countries.
At the time of writing, political unrest in Venezuela and the country's oil industry's waning fortunes are heavily linked. The fall in oil prices there has played a huge role in its decline, as did mismanagement by governments past and present. Events like these are worth paying attention to if you are interested in the fortunes of crude oil.