Motorists have had a rollercoaster ride at the petrol pump this year as oil prices careered to record levels before falling back.
Oil-producing cartel Opec has cut supply by 4.2million barrels since September, but this has so far failed to stop prices tumbling.
They peaked at $147 a barrel in July, but are now well below $40.
UK drivers have benefited from the falls and petrol prices are now at their lowest for more than 21 months, according to the AA.
Unleaded fell 5.38p between mid-November and mid-December, to 89.48p a litre. Diesel also dropped, by 6.89p to 101.93p a litre, helped by a 5p drop by supermarkets and some non-supermarket retailers.
Oil producers are concerned that a prolonged fall in prices could hurt investments and cause further volatility in the future.
Next year is expected to bring another period of uncertainty for smaller oil and gas firms operating in the UK North Sea. There will undoubtedly be casualties and acquisitions, according to business adviser Ernst and Young.
Oil and gas consultancy Hannon Westwood also said this month that having up to 160 firms active in the North Sea was inherently unstable, and a long-overdue rationalisation among the smaller players was on the way.
Despite the latest production cut by Opec, analysts said the latest price slump reflected the depressed economic climate plus concerns that some members would not adhere to the new quotas.
This is a far cry from just six months ago, when Opec was under pressure to increase production to slow the meteoric rise of oil prices.
Experts said it was only a matter of time before crude hit the previously unimaginable $200-a-barrel mark, however, oil began its precipitous slide in August, diving 25% in a month as concern grew that slower economic growth would reduce demand.
Global demand for crude has slowed dramatically according to the US Energy Information Administration.
In its short-term energy outlook, updated at the start of December, it forecast a worldwide slump in consumption both this year and next, which would mark the first time in three decades it had declined for two consecutive years.
It predicts oil demand will drop by 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year and by 450,000bpd in 2009.
John Hall, of energy consultant John Hall Associates, believes the price of crude should never have gone above $100 a barrel in the first place.
He said: “Having a high oil price is the last thing that the global economic climate wants. People said the world could live with it. Well it couldn’t and it didn’t.”
He predicted oil prices would go to around $50-$60 a barrel towards the middle of next year.
Oil rose above $36 a barrel yesterday after the United Arab Emirates joined leading exporter Saudi Arabia in deepening supply curbs in line with Opec’s biggest output cut so far announced last week. US crude gained $2.36 to settle at $37.71 a barrel while London Brent rose $1.76 to $38.37.