146 year crude oil price chart

Here is a chart of crude oil prices between 1861 and 2007 (source: Wikimedia Commons).

The real price appears to show a very gradual downward trend(on a long term moving average basis) from the beginning until the OPEC oil embargo in 1973.   It’s remarkable that the nominal price was essentially stable over the same period.

The spike and decline between 1973 and approximately 1997 reflect the embargo and the resulting improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency and increased exploration outside OPEC countries (which added significant new supply.

The 19th century volatility was likely due to timing of new discoveries of oil fields, rapidly changing markets for oil-based products, and competition between producers that was eventually extinguished due to the success of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

For comparison, here is a chart of recent crude oil prices from Euromonitor:

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