Geopolitical tensions will keep oil prices elevated heading into the summer driving season, but the energy market could be on track for a tumble in the second half of the year, according to Barclays' head of energy commodities research.
Benchmark oil futures hit more than three-year highs last week. Those gains were underpinned by strong demand for petroleum products and a steady drop in global crude stockpiles, but escalating conflicts in the Middle East have boosted the oil market in recent weeks.
Both the Brent and U.S. crude benchmarks posted their biggest weekly gains since July last week in the lead-up to a missile strike on Syria by the United States, France and the U.K. on Friday in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack.
The Syria conflict, which puts Western powers at odds with Russia and Iran, is not going away anytime soon, said Michael Cohen, head of energy commodities research at Barclays. An escalation there could precipitate an escalation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia's restive eastern provinces or in Iraq during parliamentary elections next month, he said.
"All of this is going to add to headline risk at the very same time that we're gearing up for the driving season," when demand for refined fuels like gasoline increases, Cohen told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday.