Oil nears $100 a barrel amidst Russia-Ukraine tensions


Jason Ryan, Staff

Header Image: Financial Times

On Monday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered forces into two regions of Eastern Ukraine. The rising tensions have sent jitters through markets. Oil, natural-gas and agricultural prices rose as pressures threatened to disrupt flows of natural resources from Eastern Europe to world markets.

Russia was the largest supplier of natural gas and oil to the European Union last year, and one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, accounting for 17 percent of the world’s natural gas and 12 percent of its oil. These tensions are contributing to increases in oil prices.

Crude prices recently crossed $90 per barrel, representing an increase of more than 20 percent this year and a pickup of more than 80 percent since the beginning of 2021. These gains, however, can also be credited to other factors such as tight supply. For instance demand for oil has surged since the early pandemic lows. Production, however, has not kept pace.

Moreover, U.S. crude surged more than three percent at one point to a high of $96. The contract ended the session 1.4 percent higher at $92.35 per barrel. Brent traded as high as $99.50, before settling at $96.84 per barrel for a gain of 1.52 percent.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 ended the day down one percent to its lowest closing level since late 2021, led lower by energy and consumer discretionary stocks. The decline on Tuesday brought the index into a correction, or 10 percent below its recent peak in January. Surging oil prices will benefit oil producers, but those producers will raise costs for everyone else. This will certainly depress economic activity, as consumers and companies alike respond to higher prices by cutting back. Gasoline prices in the U.S. are averaging more than $3.50 a gallon, the highest average since 2014. If crude prices should rise higher, gasoline prices would almost certainly climb more.The biggest burden for Americans would fall on lower-income families, since they spend a larger percentage of their household budget on gasoline (American Council for Energy Efficient Economy). In addition, rising natural gas prices could raise electricity and home heating bills. The increasing costs for transportation, power and heat would all contribute to inflation, which is already at its highest rate in 40 years in the U.S., though there is debate about how long the impact would be. All and all, it is clear that any rise in oil prices will affect the world markets in a negative manner.

Seed Oils: A Hidden Danger in the American Diet


David O’Brien, Editor

Seed oil is an overarching term used to describe industrially produced cooking oils. These oils are produced through a 70-minute wash in the chemical solvent hexane and refined in lye. Hexane is also used to extract oils and grease along with other contaminants in water. Lye, also referred to as sodium-hydroxide, is used for making soap. Both are chemical substances that I personally would not consciously choose to consume. Afterwards, this substance is bleached and dyed to remove the smell and the less-than-appealing color. Not only is vegetable oil clearly manufactured to meet price needs for massive restaurant chains rather than public health needs, but the ingredients used to produce it are incredibly bad for the environment. Crops used for the production of seed oils are soy, corn and cotton; some of the issues with these crops being used as oil vegetables rather than more traditional and healthier crops (an example of safe crops to be used for oil are avocado and olives) are oversaturation of the food supply leading to nutritional deficiencies due to lack of variety and displacement of nutrient dense crops that are needed for the average diet. Along with the dietary concerns of these oils are environmental issues ranging from destroyed water systems, depleted soil and heavily sprayed with chemicals and GMOs being used more often due to the current methods of producing these crops.

Seed oils are the primary sources of omega-6 fatty acids in the average American’s diet. To maintain the balance of inflammation one needs a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 acids, which should be 1:1. However, since vegetable oils are used in the majority of recipes ranging from the average household to chain restaurants, the average person, especially one living on a budget, cannot avoid having a massive imbalance which leads to inflammatory issues. The average ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Americans is 20:1. While the majority of people promote seed oils as a natural substance that are healthier ingredients to use while cooking than, say, butter or lard, they may be just as bad if not worse, seeing as inflammatory disease leads to eight of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. 

The dangers of seed oils in the American diet have gone unnoticed for far too long. As dietary fads come and go, the damage of chemical products being used in foods that are supposed to be good for us will not leave any time soon. This situation is yet another public health crisis that plagues the American public that has not been addressed. While the majority of college students are bound to be unable to avoid seed oils due to the fact we’re stuck eating B and G, fast food and are almost all on pretty low budgets for groceries. If possible, try to substitute seed oils with healthier oils to cook with, like olive or avocado oil.