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Outlook For '08: Predictions On Prices, OPEC, And More

Melissa and I are taking part in the Outlook For '08 predictions, but we decided to split them up. So, out of the eight we are making, I took four and Melissa took four.That way, uou'll get double the pleasure next year, of seeing whether the two of us are right!

Here are my predictions and here are Melissa's, if you haven't seen hers yet.

#1 Prediction: Oil prices aren't likely to remain at these high levels:
This is the billion dollar question for 2008: How long will oil prices stay up here? The drumbeat for $100 oil seems to have been silenced for now and even long-time bulls that I talk to are turning bearish. It will likely take a war or a hurricane or some major supply disruption to get oil to that triple-digit mark. And while the market has grown comfortable with high prices, it hasn't been long that we've seen oil prices at these levels. Peter Beutel at Cameron Hanover sent me this interesting tidbit: Light sweet crude futures topped $90 dollars a barrel just 25 days in the 24 years that the contract has been trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reuters latest poll of analysts sees oil prices averaging $74.40 a barrel in 2008. But strong demand, tight supplies and investors looking for a hedge against the dollar could keep the upward pressure on.

# 2 Prediction: Jolly Green Google will be a major "energy" company to watch in 2008:
The company is pouring tens of millions of dollars into into funding wind, solar and geothermal power. Even if oil prices moderate a bit, the push for alternative energy sources is likely to continue to go strong.

#3 Prediction: Non-OPEC producers pumping more oil may help to take OPEC out of the driver's seat:
Expect more surprises from non-OPEC countries. Brazil's latest offshore find -- as much as 8 billion barrels -- from the Tupi field seemed to come out of nowhere. The International Energy Agency expects non-OPEC production to rise a little over 2% in 2008. Citi's Tim Evans tells me that factor coupled with weak demand growth is likely to limit OPEC's market share next year. More oil from non-OPEC countries is good news for consumers. As Evans points out, the combination of rising non-OPEC production and weak demand growth normally translates into increased OPEC spare capacity and lower prices.

#4 Prediction: Expect my enthusiastic reporting on energy from the NYMEX to increasingly reflect my passion personal finance:
Even if oil prices moderate, consumers will still want to know how much energy costs are going to impact their transportation and household fuel costs and how energy prices will impact the costs of goods and services. Look for more frequent updates on gasoline prices and home heating costs -- and more important, tips on how to save money on your energy bills!!

Questions? Comments? energysource@cnbc.com