While Europe frets over natural gas and electricity prices, the oil rally is gathering some menacing steam. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, settled at $80.52 a barrel yesterday, its highest price in seven years. Brent settled at $83.65/barrel. A price surge that started as a recovery from last year’s pandemic-induced depths is now ringing alarm bells in the world’s capitals.

Last week, before this latest lurch higher, the U.S. energy secretary told me that a release from strategic stocks was one of the tools under consideration to ease the pain. The crude price is even higher now, and average American petrol prices have risen to $3.27 a gallon—50% above the average a year ago. So what next?

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