Energy prices are influenced by many different factors driving supply and demand.
Global economic growth and prosperity are the most obvious drivers of demand; in boom times demand for energy increases, whereas in leaner times users tend to decrease their consumption.
Many other political and environmental factors are also important. Extreme or unusual weather patterns can disrupt supply of products such as crude oil, heating oil, and natural gas. And at the other end of the chain these same conditions can increase or decrease consumer demand for heating, air conditioning, travel and more. As the world's largest consumer of energies, the China has a particularly high impact on this demand.
A significant proportion of global energy production requires access to, or through, unstable regions. Global oil production is largely controlled by a handful of middle eastern states who also have some of the world’s largest natural gas fields, along with Russia. Prices tend to be volatile as a result of political instability in these regions.
Crude oil is the single most traded commodity, with Brent Crude (UK Oil) and West Texas Intermediate (US Oil) dominating the global energy markets and widely regarded as benchmarks for crude oil prices. For energy trders, the spread between Brent Crude and West Texas can offer an interesting trading opportunity as the influence of individual factors driving the prices of these two benchmarks change and the prices converge or diverge.