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Photo: David McNew/Getty

After a year of competition, the price of Brent crude closed at $52.20 a barrel, and congratulations began to pour in on Twitter. It was last Friday and — for the third time in four years — I looked like a strong shot to win the Oil Bet, an annual contest among some two dozen energy analysts, academics and reporters to project Brent's year-end price. A snarky suggestion from a former BP executive was that Goldman Sachs — itself far out of the money — put me on the payroll.

Yes, but: In the most topsy-turvy market in a decade, everyone knew that actually anything could happen, and on Monday, in the final two hours of trading for the year, it did — oil prices made a dramatic bullish lurch. The crown went to Brian Scheid, of S&P Global Platts.

How the impossible year went down: The Oil Bet began four years ago as a lark among five oil fanatics on Twitter (here is its history, written by Leslie Hayward, now of Rapidan, who privately took on the role of administrator). The prize is small — a glass of red wine. But since it has grown to some three dozen bettors.

For most of 2018, it looked like I had no shot at all. Based on a forecast I had seen that supplies would flood the market in the last quarter, my wager was $50.01 a barrel.

  • That quickly looked ludicrous as, with a superlatively disciplined OPEC-Russia tandem, the price rose rapidly into the $70s-per-barrel and then the $80s. The talk was a return to $100-a-barrel oil. I was not thinking victory, but humiliation.
  • Then, abruptly — in October — the mood shifted. The market suddenly noticed that U.S. shale drillers had added almost 2 million barrels of oil a day.
  • The price began to plunge. By Dec. 1, it was under $60, a 30% plummet. Impossibly, I could see it was heading my way — I could win as long as the end-year price was between $49.50 and $53.49.

As of 1 pm Monday — two hours before the close — I was feeling pretty good.

Then came the bullish flush. Soon, the price finally closed at $53.80, 31 cents over my threshold. Brian was the winner with a wager of $57.

Life goes on. The bets are already in for 2019.

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - World

Ukraine crisis: Blinken to visit Kyiv, then meet Russian foreign minister

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, following a trip to Kyiv to reinforce U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, according to a senior U.S. official.

Why it matters: The meeting with Lavrov suggests a diplomatic resolution to the crisis may still be on the table, despite the collapse of security talks between Russia and the West last week.

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull — CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer — Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines.
  2. Vaccines: Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — America's vaccination drive runs out of gas.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  5. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  6. Variant tracker

Mayors feel powerless to reduce homelessness

Expand chart
Recreated from 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

America's mayors know their constituents hold them accountable for homelessness, but many don't feel they have the tools or power to fix things, a brand new survey says.

Why it matters: While homelessness has become more acute during the pandemic, city leaders say they lack the money, staff or political support needed to make a meaningful difference.