By NEELA BANERJEE
Published: October 14, 2001
THEY are the nightmares, the worst confluence of misguided decisions and startling violence, that politicians and oil executives ponder briefly and then shoo away:
That sympathizers of Osama bin Laden sink three oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and choke off the narrow, bow-shaped channel that funnels 14 million barrels a day from the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world. That the United States attacks Iraq, and Israel launches a huge strike against the Palestinians, driving them from their camps and staking out more land -- all of which spurs the Persian Gulf states to cut off oil for the West. Or perhaps that a popular uprising, led by sympathizers of Mr. bin Laden, topples the ruling Saud family in Saudi Arabia, by far the world's largest oil producer.
''If bin Laden takes over and becomes king of Saudi Arabia, he'd turn off the tap,'' said Roger Diwan, a managing director of the Petroleum Finance Company, a consulting firm in Washington. ''He said at one point that he wants oil to be $144 a barrel'' -- about six times what it sells for now.