NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Wall Street is abuzz over the looming military conflict with Syria, and the conversation should spill over to Main Street as oil and gas prices start climbing over the geopolitical turmoil. One major investment banking firm says oil prices could rise to $150 per barrel before the conflict is over, a figure that would likely drive prices at the pump much, much higher. Certainly, President Barack Obama has a crisis on his hands with accusations that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for a chemicals attack last month on a Damascus suburb that killed more than 1,429 civilians. "Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place," said Obama in a statement last week. "And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see -- hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children -- young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government."
Calling the attack an "outrage," Obama is calling on Congress to give him authority to conduct military operations against the Assad regime. That could put U.S troops in harm's way and set the stage for significantly higher gasoline prices for American consumers. The average price for a gallon of gas is $3.54, according to AAA. Its federal relations manager, Avery Ash, says prices are already heading upward. "While retail gasoline prices remain well below year-ago levels, tensions, unrest and violence in the Middle East and North Africa have kept global oil prices higher than recent summers," Ash says. "West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices have now settled above $100 per barrel each day since the beginning of July due in large part to these continued reports of violence in Egypt, Libya and Syria." How high can gasoline prices go? Plenty high, experts say.
The investment banking firm Societe Generale estimates oil prices could rise to $150 per barrel (it's trading at $107 now), depending on the severity of the military conflict with Syria. SocGen chief oil analyst Michael Wittner, in a research note, says Syria isn't the problem -- it's the regional spillover effect. "Our big worry is Iraq," he writes. "The Sunni vs. Shiite conflict in Syria has a direct parallel in Iraq, and the violence in Iraq has reached levels not seen since 2008. Iraq's northern pipeline carrying Kirkuk grade crude to Ceyhan, Turkey, has been repeatedly attacked in the last three months and has reduced exports from 350,000 barrels a day to less than 200,000." Wittner tells CNBC that the odds of oil prices reaching $150 per barrel is about 20% right now, but gas prices should rise as the Mideast prices escalates no matter what. That would make gasoline and heating oil more expensive heading into the colder months and holiday travel season.