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The forecast for the oil and gas industry is optimistic, colored with a bit of caution.
"The industry has a lot of opportunity for continued growth and profitability," says Mark Layton, director of energy services for Deloitte & Touche, L.L.P., "but it's a very fragile environment they're operating in."
While energy consumption will continue to grow, especially outside the United States, advances in technology for finding and producing oil and gas are growing even faster, which will keep a lid on prices.
Gas prices, which hovered around $1.45 to $1.46 per million British thermal units at the Gulf Coast wellhead in 1995, will rise moderately to about $1.70, says Carol Freedenthal of Jofree Corp., an energy consulting firm. Although oil prices surged at the end of the year, in part because of inclement weather …