US petroleum industry stresses easing as downstream woes persist

Although the US oil industry has been under severe stress during the past few years, the sources of that stress have changed dramatically. In 1998 through early 1999, the industry suffered from extremely depressed prices. The ensuing financial problems encouraged cutbacks in investment and employment, as well as an unprecedented level of industry mergers. Last year, however, the stresses were very different, as tight world oil supplies and low inventories of oil-and in the US, low natural gas storage as well-in the face of strong demand combined to produce sharply higher prices. As a result of regulatory and logistical problems, certain regions witnessed price spikes well in excess of ove...

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