Price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil
WTI is a grade of crude oil also known as “Texas light sweet.” It is measured to have an API gravity of around 39.6 and specific gravity of about 0.83, which is considered “light” relative to other crude oils. This oil also contains roughly 0.24 percent sulfur, and is therefore named “sweet.”
WTI is used as an oil pricing benchmark. WTI crude oil is also the underlying commodity of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s oil futures contracts. The price of other crude oils, such as UK Brent crude oil, the OPEC crude oil basket, and Dubai Fateh oil, can be compared to that of WTI crude oil. Since 1976, the price of WTI crude oil has increased dramatically, rising from just 12.23 U.S. dollar per barrel in 1976 to a peak of 99.06 dollars per barrel in 2008. The price per barrel in March 2016 was a monthly average of 33.18 U.S. dollars. The price of WTI is volatile, as a timeline of the monthly price development of West Texas Intermediate crude oil shows.
The price of oil is controlled in part by limiting oil production. Prior to 1971, the Texas Railroad Commission controlled the price of oil by setting limits on production of U.S. oil. In 1971, the Texas Railroad Commission ceased limiting production, but OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries with member states Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela among others, continued to do so. In 1972, due to geopolitical conflict, OPEC set an oil embargo and cut oil production, causing prices to quadruple by 1974. Oil prices rose again in 1979 and 1980 due to the Iranian revolution, and doubled between 1978 and 1981 as the Iran-Iraq War prevented oil production. A number of geopolitical conflicts and periods of increased production and consumption have influenced the price of oil since the 1980s.