Seventeen million barrels of oil per day passed through the Straits last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency -- approximately one-sixth of global oil production and nearly 20% of all the oil traded worldwide. Iran itself exports between 2.2 million to 2.5 million barrels a day.
Iran isn't the only hot spot that could lead to tightened supplies and higher prices. Political conflict in Nigeria threatens its output of 2.5 million barrels a day. Tensions between Sudan and the newly independent nation of South Sudan over oil-related transit fees could curtail the nearly 500,000 barrels per day that flows from that area.
Domestically, it remains to be seen whether there will be any price-related pushback to President Barack Obama's refusal to grant a permit for the politically charged Keystone XL pipeline expansion pitched as running from Canada through Montana and Oklahoma to refineries in Texas for export.
All that volatility may not necessarily be terrible news from an investing standpoint, especially if your goal is to mitigate that 8.4% price increase for heating your home this winter by betting on companies in the oil business that profit while consumers get hit.The big oil companies of the world -- ExxonMobil (XOM - Get Report), BP (BP - Get Report), Chevron (CVX - Get Report), ConocoPhilips (COP - Get Report), Occidental Petroleum (OXY - Get Report), Devon Energy (DVN - Get Report), Chesapeake Energy (CHK - Get Report) and Anadarko Petroleum (APC - Get Report) -- are well-positioned to benefit when the global commodities marketplace inflates crude prices. For example, in October, ExxonMobil announced that its quarterly profit of $10.3 billion was up 41% from a year earlier, in part due to rising crude prices. In April, the company's Q1 earnings spiked 69%. Investing in the top oil companies will also net you a dividend yield that typically ranges between 2% and 4%.