The price of oil and other materials went through several years of rapid growth as the economy grew and several months of an even more rapid fall once the economy started to crash. Over at The Oil Drum, Phil Hart gave a pretty simple micro economics explanation of what happened and what might happen going forward.
His thesis relies on the idea that we have reached either a peak or the peak of oil production. However, given what we know of crude oil production in the last few years, the idea isn't far fetched.
As Phil points out, we could see more booms and busts. The busts prompt oil producers to rein in plans to expand oil production, leading to reduced production and higher prices. The higher prices then reduce output from the rest of the economy, causing the bust.
We may see this cycle in other commodities. Food production, under threat of increased desertification due to global warming, already happening in Australia and elsewhere (see Burning Questions), may exhibit a similar behavior. Dire conditions potentially.