This is a good article. Click here for more information.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
Headquarters Vienna, Austria
Official language English
Type International Cartel[1]
 •  Secretary General Abdallah Salem el-Badri
Establishment Baghdad, Iraq
 •  Statute 10–14 September 1960 
 •  In effect January 1961 
Currency Indexed as USD per barrel (US$ /bbl)

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC, /ˈpɛk/ OH-pek, or OPEP in several other languages) is an intergovernmental organization of 13 nations, founded in 1960 by the first five members, and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria. The 13 countries account for 40 percent of global oil production and 73 percent of the world's "proven" oil reserves, making OPEC a major influence on global oil prices.

OPEC's stated mission is "to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets, in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers, and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry."[2] As of 2016, OPEC's members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader), United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Two-thirds of OPEC's oil production and reserves are in its six Middle Eastern countries that surround the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

The formation of OPEC marked a turning point toward national sovereignty over natural resources, and OPEC decisions have come to play a prominent role in the global oil market and international relations. The effect can be particularly strong when wars or civil disorders lead to extended interruptions in supply. In the 1970s, restrictions in oil production led to a dramatic rise in oil prices and OPEC revenue and wealth, with long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for the global economy. In the 1980s, OPEC started setting production targets for its member nations; and generally when the production targets are reduced, oil prices increase. In December 2014, "OPEC and the oil men" ranked as #3 on Lloyd's list of "the top 100 most influential people in the shipping industry"[3] – although their influence on international trade is periodically challenged by the expansion of non-OPEC energy sources, and by the recurring temptation for individual OPEC members to exceed their production ceilings.


Member countries in 2016[edit]

As of January 2016, OPEC has 13 member countries: six in the Middle East (Western Asia), one in Southeast Asia, four in Africa, and two in South America. Their combined rate of oil production represented 40 percent of the world's total in 2014, and they accounted for 73 percent of the world's "proven" oil reserves, including 48 percent from just the six Middle Eastern members:

In October 2015, Sudan formally submitted an application to join OPEC.[4] Approval of a new member country requires agreement by three-fourths of the existing members, including all five of the founders.[5]

Country Region Membership Years[6] Population
(2015 est.)[7]
Oil Production
(bbl/day, 2014)[A][9]
Proven Reserves
(bbl, 2014)[A][10]
 Algeria Africa 1969– 39,542,166 2,381,740 1,721,000 12,200,000,000
 Angola Africa 2007– 19,625,353 1,246,700 1,756,000 9,060,000,000
 Ecuador South America 1973–1992, 2007– 15,868,396 283,560 556,000 8,240,000,000
 Indonesia Southeast Asia 1962–2008, 2016– 255,993,674 1,904,569 917,000 3,740,000,000
 Iran Middle East 1960[B] 81,824,270 1,648,000 3,377,000 157,300,000,000
 Iraq Middle East 1960[B] 37,056,169 437,072 3,364,000 140,300,000,000
 Kuwait Middle East 1960[B] 2,788,534 17,820 2,767,000 104,000,000,000
 Libya Africa 1962– 6,411,776 1,759,540 516,000 48,470,000,000
 Nigeria Africa 1971– 181,562,056 923,768 2,428,000 37,140,000,000
 Qatar Middle East 1961– 2,194,817 11,437 2,055,000 25,240,000,000
 Saudi Arabia Middle East 1960[B] 27,752,316 2,149,690 11,624,000 268,350,000,000
 United Arab Emirates Middle East 1967– 5,779,760 83,600 3,474,000 97,800,000,000
 Venezuela South America 1960[B] 29,275,460 912,050 2,685,000 297,740,000,000
OPEC Total 705,674,747 13,759,546 37,240,000 1,209,580,000,000
World Total 7,256,490,011 510,072,000 92,362,000 1,655,560,000,000
OPEC Percent 10% 3% 40% 73%
  1. ^ a b One petroleum barrel (bbl) is approximately 42 US gallons, or 159 liters, or 0.159 m3, varying slightly with temperature. To put the production numbers in context, a supertanker typically holds 2,000,000 barrels (320,000 m3).[11]
  2. ^ a b c d e One of the five founding members that attended the first OPEC conference, in September 1960.

Former members[edit]

Country Region Membership Years[6] Population
(2015 est.)[7]
Oil Production
(bbl/day, 2014)[9]
Proven Reserves
(bbl, 2014)[10]
 Gabon Africa 1975–1994 1,705,336 267,667 240,000 2,000,000,000

For countries that export petroleum at relatively low volume, their limited negotiating power as OPEC members would not necessarily justify the burdens imposed by OPEC production quotas and membership fees. Ecuador withdrew from OPEC in December 1992,[12] because it was unwilling to pay the annual US$2 million membership fee and felt that it needed to produce more oil than it was allowed under its OPEC quota at the time,[13] although it rejoined in October 2007. Similar concerns prompted Gabon to suspend membership in January 1995.[14] In May 2008, Indonesia announced that it would leave OPEC when its membership expired at the end of that year, having become a net importer of oil and being unable to meet its production quota.[15] It rejoined the organization in January 2016.[16]

Some commentators consider that the United States was a de facto member of OPEC during its formal occupation of Iraq, due to its leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003–2004.[17][18] But this is not borne out by the minutes of OPEC meetings, as no US representative attended in an official capacity.[19][20]


Since the 1980s, representatives from Egypt, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Russia, and other oil-exporting nations have attended many OPEC meetings as observers, as an informal mechanism for coordinating policies.[21]

Leadership and decision-making[edit]

refer to caption
OPEC Conference delegates at Swissotel, Quito, Ecuador, December 2010

The OPEC Conference is the supreme authority of the organization, and consists of delegations normally headed by the oil ministers of member countries. The chief executive of the organization is the OPEC Secretary General. The Conference usually meets at the Vienna headquarters, at least twice a year and in additional extraordinary sessions whenever required. It generally operates on the principles of unanimity and "one member, one vote", with each country paying an equal membership fee into the annual budget.[5] However, since Saudi Arabia is by far the largest and most-profitable oil exporter in the world, with enough capacity to function as the traditional swing producer to balance the global market, it serves as "OPEC’s de facto leader".[16]

International cartel[edit]

At various times, OPEC members have displayed apparent anti-competitive cartel behavior through the organization's agreements about oil production and price levels.[22] In fact, economists often cite OPEC as a textbook example of a cartel that cooperates to reduce market competition, as in this definition from OECD's Glossary of Industrial Organisation Economics and Competition Law:[1]

International commodity agreements covering products such as coffee, sugar, tin and more recently oil (OPEC: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) are examples of international cartels which have publicly entailed agreements between different national governments.

OPEC members strongly prefer to describe their organization as a modest force for market stabilization, rather than a powerful anti-competitive cartel. In its defense, the organization was founded as a counterweight against the previous "Seven Sisters" cartel of multinational oil companies, and non-OPEC energy suppliers have always had enough market share to maintain a substantial degree of worldwide competition.[23] Moreover, widespread cheating within OPEC largely neutralizes its collective ability to influence global oil prices through agreements.[24]

OPEC has not been involved in any disputes related to the competition rules of the World Trade Organization, even though the objectives, actions, and principles of the two organizations diverge considerably.[25] A key US District Court decision held that OPEC consultations are protected as "governmental" acts of state by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and are therefore beyond the legal reach of US competition law governing "commercial" acts.[26][27] Despite popular sentiment against OPEC, legislative proposals to limit sovereign immunity, such as the NOPEC Act, have so far been unsuccessful.[28]


OPEC often has difficulty agreeing on policy decisions because its member countries differ widely in their oil export capacities, production costs, reserves, geological features, economic development, and political circumstances.[29][30] Indeed, oil reserves can themselves become a source of serious conflict, in what economists call the "natural resource curse".[31][32] A further complication is that religion-linked conflicts in the Middle East are recurring features of the geopolitical landscape for this oil-rich region.[33][34] Internationally important conflicts in OPEC's history have included the Six-Day War (1967), Yom Kippur War (1973), a hostage siege directed by Palestinian militants (1975), the Iranian Revolution (1979), Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), Iraqi occupation of Kuwait (1990–1991), September 11 attacks by mostly Saudi hijackers (2001), American occupation of Iraq (2003–2011), Conflict in the Niger Delta (2004–present), Arab Spring (2010–2012), Libyan Crisis (2011–present), and Embargo against Iran (2012–2016). Although events such as these can temporarily disrupt oil supplies and elevate prices, the frequent disputes tend to limit OPEC's long-term cohesion and effectiveness.[35]

Market information[edit]

As one area in which OPEC members have been able to cooperate productively over the decades, the organization has significantly improved the quality and quantity of information available about the international oil market.

Publications and research[edit]

In April 2001, OPEC collaborated with five other international organizations (APEC, Eurostat, IEA, OLADE, UNSD) to improve the availability and reliability of oil data. They launched the Joint Oil Data Exercise, which in 2005 was joined by IEF and renamed the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI), covering more than 90 percent of the global oil market. GECF joined as an eighth partner in 2014, enabling JODI also to cover nearly 90 percent of the global market for natural gas.[36]

Since 2007, OPEC has published the "World Oil Outlook" (WOO) annually, in which it presents a comprehensive analysis of the global oil industry including medium- and long-term projections for supply and demand.[37] OPEC also produces an "Annual Statistical Bulletin" (ASB),[38] and publishes more-frequent updates in its "Monthly Oil Market Report" (MOMR)[39] and the "OPEC Bulletin".[40]

Crude oil benchmarks[edit]

refer to caption
Sulfur content and API gravity of different types of crude oil

A "crude oil benchmark" is a standardized petroleum product that serves as a convenient reference price for buyers and sellers of crude oil. Benchmarks are used because oil prices differ based on variety, grade, delivery date and location, and other legal requirements.[41]

The OPEC Reference Basket of Crudes has been an important benchmark for oil prices since 2000. It is calculated as a weighted average of prices for petroleum blends from the OPEC member countries: Saharan Blend (Algeria), Girassol (Angola), Oriente (Ecuador), Minas (Indonesia), Iran Heavy (Islamic Republic of Iran), Basra Light (Iraq), Kuwait Export (Kuwait), Es Sider (Libya), Bonny Light (Nigeria), Qatar Marine (Qatar), Arab Light (Saudi Arabia), Murban (UAE), and Merey (Venezuela).[42]

North Sea Brent Crude Oil is the leading benchmark for Atlantic basin crude oils, and is used to price approximately two-thirds of the world's traded crude oil. Other well-known benchmarks are West Texas Intermediate (WTI), Dubai Crude, Oman Crude, and Urals oil.[43]

Spare capacity[edit]

The US Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the US Department of Energy, defines spare capacity for crude oil market management "as the volume of production that can be brought on within 30 days and sustained for at least 90 days... OPEC spare capacity provides an indicator of the world oil market's ability to respond to potential crises that reduce oil supplies."[44]

In November 2014, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that OPEC's "effective" spare capacity, adjusted for ongoing disruptions in countries like Libya and Nigeria, was 3.5 million barrels per day (560,000 m3/d) and that this number would increase to a peak in 2017 of 4.6 million barrels per day (730,000 m3/d).[45] By November 2015, the IEA changed its assessment "with OPEC's spare production buffer stretched thin, as Saudi Arabia – which holds the lion's share of excess capacity – and its Gulf neighbours pump at near-record rates."[46]


Post-WWII situation[edit]

In 1949, Venezuela and Iran took the earliest steps in the direction of OPEC, by inviting Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to improve communications among petroleum-exporting nations as the world recovered from World War II.[47] At the time, some of the world's largest oil fields were just entering production in the Middle East. The United States had established the Interstate Oil Compact Commission to join the Texas Railroad Commission in limiting overproduction. The US was simultaneously the world's largest producer and consumer of oil; and the world market was dominated by a group of multinational companies known as the "Seven Sisters", five of which were headquartered in the US.[48]

1959–1960 anger from exporting countries[edit]

In February 1959, the multinational oil companies (MOCs) unilaterally reduced their posted prices for Venezuelan and Middle Eastern crude oil by 10 percent. Weeks later, the first Arab Petroleum Congress convened in Cairo, Egypt, where the influential journalist Wanda Jablonski introduced Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Tariki to Venezuela's Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo. Both oil ministers were angered by the price cuts, and the two led their fellow delegates to establish the Maadi Pact or Gentlemen's Agreement, calling for an "Oil Consultation Commission" of exporting countries, to which MOCs should present price-change plans. Jablonski reported a marked hostility toward the West and a growing outcry against "absentee landlordism" of the MOCs, which at the time controlled all oil operations within the exporting countries and wielded enormous political influence. In August 1960, ignoring the warnings, and with the US favoring Canadian and Mexican oil for strategic reasons, the MOCs again unilaterally announced significant cuts in their posted prices for Middle Eastern crude oil.[47][48][49]

1960–1975 founding and expansion[edit]

refer to caption
OPEC headquarters building in Vienna

The following month, during 10–14 September 1960, the Baghdad Conference was held at the initiative of Tariki and Pérez Alfonzo. The governments of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela met in Baghdad to discuss ways to increase the price of crude oil produced by their countries, and ways to respond to unilateral actions by the MOCs. Despite strong US opposition: "Together with Arab and non-Arab producers, Saudi Arabia formed the Organization of Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC) to secure the best price available from the major oil corporations."[50] The Middle Eastern members originally called for OPEC headquarters to be in Baghdad or Beirut, but Venezuela argued for a neutral location, and so Geneva, Switzerland was chosen. On 1 September 1965, OPEC moved to Vienna, Austria, after Switzerland declined to extend diplomatic privileges.[51]

During 1961–1975, the five founding nations were joined by Qatar (1961), Indonesia (1962–2008, rejoined 2016), Libya (1962), United Arab Emirates (1967), Algeria (1969), Nigeria (1971), Ecuador (1973–1992, rejoined 2007), and Gabon (1975–1994).[6] Indicating that OPEC is not averse to further expansion, Mohammed Barkindo, OPEC's Acting Secretary General in 2006, urged Angola and Sudan to join,[52] and Angola did in 2007. Since the 1980s, representatives from Egypt, Mexico, Norway, Oman, Russia, and other oil-exporting nations have attended many OPEC meetings as observers, as an informal mechanism for coordinating policies.[21]

1973–1974 oil embargo[edit]

refer to caption
An undersupplied US gasoline station, closed during the oil embargo in 1973
Main article: 1973 oil crisis

In October 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, consisting of the Arab majority of OPEC plus Egypt and Syria) declared significant production cuts and an oil embargo against the United States and other industrialized nations that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War.[53] A previous embargo attempt was largely ineffective in response to the Six-Day War in 1967.[54] However, in 1973, the result was a sharp rise in oil prices and OPEC revenues, from US$3/bbl to US$12/bbl, and an emergency period of energy rationing, intensified by panic reactions, a declining trend in US oil production, currency devaluations,[53] and a lengthy UK coal-miners dispute. For a time, the UK imposed an emergency three-day workweek.[55] Seven European nations banned non-essential Sunday driving.[56] US gas stations limited the amount of gasoline that could be dispensed, closed on Sundays, and restricted the days when gasoline could be purchased, based on license plate numbers.[57][58] Even after the embargo ended in March 1974 following intense diplomatic activity, prices continued to rise. The world experienced a global economic recession, with unemployment and inflation surging simultaneously, steep declines in stock and bond prices, major shifts in trade balances and petrodollar flows, and a dramatic end to the post-WWII economic boom.[59][60]

The 1973–1974 oil embargo had lasting effects on the United States and other industrialized nations, which established the International Energy Agency in response. Oil conservation efforts included slower speed limits on highways, smaller and more energy-efficient cars and appliances, year-round daylight saving time, reduced usage of heating and air-conditioning, better insulation, increased support of mass transit, national emergency stockpiles, and greater emphasis on coal, natural gas, ethanol, nuclear and other alternative energy sources. Meanwhile, OPEC nations demonstrated that their oil could be used as both a political and economic weapon against other nations, at least in the short term.[53][61][62][63]

1975 Special Fund[edit]

OPEC's international aid activities date from well before the 1973–1974 oil price explosion. For example, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has operated since 1961.[64]

OPEC added to its goals the selling of oil for the socio-economic growth of poorer nations. The OPEC Special Fund was conceived in Algiers, Algeria, in March 1975, and was formally established the following January. "A Solemn Declaration 'reaffirmed the natural solidarity which unites OPEC countries with other developing countries in their struggle to overcome underdevelopment,' and called for measures to strengthen cooperation between these countries... [The Fund's] resources are additional to those already made available by OPEC states through a number of bilateral and multilateral channels."[65] The Fund became an official international development agency in May 1980 and was renamed the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).[66]

1975 hostage siege[edit]

Main article: OPEC siege

On 21 December 1975, Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Iran's Jamshid Amuzegar, and the other OPEC oil ministers were taken hostage at their semi-annual conference in Vienna, Austria. The attack, which killed three non-ministers, was orchestrated by a six-person team led by Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal, and which included Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann and Hans-Joachim Klein. The self-named "Arm of the Arab Revolution" group called for the liberation of Palestine. Carlos planned to take over the conference by force and hold for ransom all eleven attending oil ministers, except for Yamani and Amuzegar who were to be executed.[67]

Carlos arranged bus and plane travel for his team and 42 of the original 63 hostages, with stops in Algiers and Tripoli, planning to fly eventually to Baghdad, where Yamani and Amuzegar were to be killed. All 30 non-Arab hostages were released in Algiers, excluding Amuzegar. Additional hostages were released at another stop in Tripoli before returning to Algiers. With only 10 hostages remaining, Carlos held a phone conversation with Algerian President Houari Boumédienne, who informed Carlos that the oil ministers' deaths would result in an attack on the plane. Boumédienne must also have offered Carlos asylum at this time and possibly financial compensation for failing to complete his assignment. Carlos expressed his regret at not being able to murder Yamani and Amuzegar, then he and his comrades left the plane. All the hostages and terrorists walked away from the situation, two days after it began.[67]

Some time after the attack, Carlos's accomplices revealed that the operation was commanded by Wadie Haddad, a founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They also claimed that the idea and funding came from an Arab president, widely thought to be Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi. Fellow militants Bassam Abu Sharif and Klein claimed that Carlos received and kept a ransom between US$20 million and US$50 million from "an Arab president". Carlos claimed that Saudi Arabia paid ransom on behalf of Iran, but that the money was "diverted en route and lost by the Revolution".[67][68]

1979–1980 oil crisis and 1980s oil glut[edit]

refer to caption
Fluctuations of OPEC net oil export revenues (1972–2005 data, 2006–2007 projected)[69]
Main articles: 1979 oil crisis and 1980s oil glut

In response to oil nationalizations and the high prices of the 1970s, industrial nations took steps to reduce their dependence on OPEC oil, especially after prices reached new peaks approaching US$40/bbl in 1979–1980[70][71] when the Iranian Revolution and Iran–Iraq War disrupted regional stability and oil supplies. Electric utilities worldwide switched from oil to coal, natural gas, or nuclear power;[72] national governments initiated multibillion-dollar research programs to develop alternatives to oil;[73][74] and commercial exploration developed major non-OPEC oilfields in Siberia, Alaska, North Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.[75] By 1986, daily worldwide demand for oil dropped by 5 million barrels, non-OPEC production rose by an even-larger amount,[76] and OPEC's market share sank from 50 percent in 1979 to just 29 percent in 1985.[77] The result was a six-year decline in the price of oil, which culminated by plunging more than half in 1986 alone.[78]

To combat falling revenue from oil sales, in 1982 Saudi Arabia pushed OPEC for audited national production quotas in an attempt to limit output and boost prices. When other OPEC nations failed to comply, Saudi Arabia first slashed its own production from 10 million barrels daily in 1979–1981 to just one-third of that level in 1985. When this proved ineffective, Saudi Arabia reversed course and flooded the market with cheap oil, causing prices to fall below US$10/bbl and higher-cost producers to become unprofitable.[76] Faced with increasing economic hardship (which ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989),[79][80] OPEC members that had previously failed to comply with quotas finally began to limit production to shore up prices, based on national quotas that sought to balance oil-related and economic criteria since 1986.[76][81] (Within their sovereign territories, the national governments of OPEC members are able to impose production limits on both government-owned and private oil companies.)[82] Generally when OPEC production targets are reduced, oil prices increase.[44]

1990–2011 responses to wars and instability[edit]

refer to caption
One of the hundreds of Kuwaiti oil fires set by retreating Iraqi troops in 1991[83]
refer to caption
Fluctuations of Brent crude oil price, 1988–2015[84]

Leading up to his 1990 Invasion of Kuwait, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was pressuring OPEC to end overproduction and to push oil prices higher, in order to help OPEC members financially and to accelerate rebuilding from the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War.[85] But these two Iraqi wars against fellow OPEC founders marked a low point in the cohesion of the organization, and oil prices subsided quickly after the short-term supply disruptions. (The 2001 September 11 attacks and the 2003 American invasion of Iraq had even milder short-term impacts on oil prices, as Saudi Arabia and other exporters cooperated to keep the world adequately supplied.)[84]

Ecuador withdrew from OPEC in December 1992,[12] because it was unwilling to pay the annual US$2 million membership fee and felt that it needed to produce more oil than it was allowed under the OPEC quota,[13] although it rejoined in October 2007. Similar concerns prompted Gabon to suspend membership in January 1995.[14] Iraq has remained a member of OPEC since the organization's founding, but Iraqi production has not been a part of any OPEC quota agreements since 1998, due to the country's daunting political difficulties.[38][86]

Lower demand triggered by the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis saw the price of oil fall back to 1986 levels. After oil slumped to around US$10/bbl, joint diplomacy achieved a gradual slowing of oil production by OPEC, Mexico and Norway.[87]

In 2003, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC held their first joint workshop on energy issues, and they have continued to meet regularly since then to "better understand trends, analysis and viewpoints and advance market transparency and predictability."[88]

Widespread insurgency and sabotage during the 2003–2008 height of the American occupation of Iraq, combined with rapidly increasing oil demand from China and investors, recurring violence against the Nigerian oil industry, and dwindling spare capacity as a cushion against global supply disruptions, prompted a sharp rise in oil prices to levels far higher than those previously targeted by OPEC.[89][90][91] Price volatility reached an extreme in 2008, as WTI crude oil surged to a record US$147/bbl in July and then plunged to just US$32/bbl in December, during the worst global recession since World War II.[92] OPEC's annual oil export revenue also set a new record in 2008, estimated around US$800 billion, and would go on to approximate US$1 trillion in 2011–2013 before plunging again.[93] By the time of the 2011 Libyan Civil War and Arab Spring, OPEC was calling for more efforts by governments and regulatory bodies to curb "excessive speculation" in oil futures markets, blaming financial speculators for increasing volatility in prices, disconnected from market fundamentals.[94]

In May 2008, Indonesia announced that it would leave OPEC when its membership expired at the end of that year, having become a net importer of oil and being unable to meet its production quota.[15] A statement released by OPEC on 10 September 2008 confirmed Indonesia's withdrawal, noting that OPEC "regretfully accepted the wish of Indonesia to suspend its full membership in the organization, and recorded its hope that the country would be in a position to rejoin the organization in the not-too-distant future."[95]

2008 production dispute[edit]

refer to caption
Countries by net oil exports (2008)

The differing economic needs of OPEC member states often affect the internal politics behind OPEC production quotas. Poorer members have pushed for reductions in OPEC production, to increase the price of oil and thus their own revenues.[96] These proposals conflict with Saudi Arabia's stated long-term strategy of being a partner with the world's economic powers to ensure a steady flow of oil that would support economic expansion.[97] Part of the basis for this policy is the Saudi concern that overly expensive oil or unreliable supply will drive industrial nations to conserve and develop alternative fuels, curtailing the worldwide demand for oil.[98] To this point, Saudi Oil Minister Yamani famously said in 1973: "The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones."[99]

On 10 September 2008, a production dispute occurred when the Saudis reportedly walked out of a negotiating session where rival members voted to reduce OPEC output. Although Saudi delegates officially endorsed the new quotas, they stated anonymously that they would not observe them. The New York Times quoted one such delegate as saying: "Saudi Arabia will meet the market’s demand. We will see what the market requires and we will not leave a customer without oil. The policy has not changed."[30]

2014–2016 oil glut[edit]

See also: 2010s oil glut
refer to caption
Countries by oil production (2013)
refer to caption
Top oil-producing countries, 1973–2015 (million barrels per day)[100]
refer to caption
Gusher well in Saudi Arabia: conventional source of OPEC production
refer to caption
Shale "fracking" in the US: major new challenge to OPEC market share

During 2014–2015, OPEC members consistently exceeded their production ceiling, and China experienced a marked slowdown in economic growth. At the same time, US oil production nearly doubled from 2008 levels and approached the world-leading "swing producer" volumes of Saudi Arabia and Russia, due to substantial improvements in shale "fracking" technology in response to record oil prices. These developments led in turn to a plunge in US oil import requirements (on the path toward energy independence), a record volume of worldwide oil inventories, and a collapse in oil prices that continued into early 2016.[101][102][103]

In spite of global oversupply, on 27 November 2014 in Vienna, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi blocked appeals from poorer OPEC members for production cuts to support prices. Naimi argued that the oil market should be left to rebalance itself at lower price levels, strategically rebuilding OPEC's long-term market share by ending the profitability of high-cost US shale oil production.[104] As he explained in an interview:[29]

Is it reasonable for a highly efficient producer to reduce output, while the producer of poor efficiency continues to produce? That is crooked logic. If I reduce, what happens to my market share? The price will go up and the Russians, the Brazilians, US shale oil producers will take my share... We want to tell the world that high-efficiency producing countries are the ones that deserve market share. That is the operative principle in all capitalist countries... One thing is for sure: Current prices [roughly US$60/bbl] do not support all producers.

A year later, when OPEC met in Vienna on 4 December 2015, the organization had exceeded its production ceiling for 18 consecutive months, US oil production had declined only slightly from its peak, world markets appeared to be oversupplied by at least 2 million barrels per day despite Libya producing 1 million barrels below capacity, hundreds of world leaders at the Paris Agreement were committing to limit carbon emissions from fossil fuels, oil producers were slashing expenses to withstand prices as low as the $40s, Indonesia was rejoining the export organization, Iraqi production had surged after years of disorder, and Iranian output was poised to rebound with the lifting of international sanctions. In light of these pressures, OPEC decided to set aside its ineffective production ceiling until the next ministerial conference in June 2016.[16][102][105][106][107][108] By 20 January 2016, the OPEC Reference Basket was down to US$22.48/bbl – less than one-fourth of its high from June 2014 ($110.48), less than one-sixth of its record from July 2008 ($140.73), and back below the April 2003 starting point ($23.27) of its historic run-up. As 2016 continued, the price gradually rose back into the $40s, with the world waiting to see if and when and how the market would return to balance.[103]


  1. ^ a b "Glossary of Industrial Organisation Economics and Competition Law" (PDF). OECD. 1993. p. 19. 
  2. ^ "Our Mission". OPEC. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Top 100 Most Influential People in the Shipping Industry: 3. OPEC and the oil men". Lloyd's List. 12 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Sudan awaiting decision on its OPEC membership application: minister". Sudan Tribune. 22 October 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Statute" (PDF). OPEC. 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "Member Countries". OPEC. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Field Listing: Population". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Field Listing: Area". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  9. ^ a b "Total Petroleum and Other Liquids Production, 2014". US Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Crude Oil Proved Reserves, 2014". US Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  11. ^ Hayler, William B.; Keever, John M. (2003). American Merchant Seaman's Manual. Cornell Maritime Press. p. 14.3. ISBN 0-87033-549-9. 
  12. ^ a b Zycher, Benjamin (2008). "OPEC". In David R. Henderson (ed.). The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Library of Economics and Liberty. ISBN 978-0865976658. OCLC 237794267. 
  13. ^ a b "Ecuador Set to Leave OPEC". The New York Times. 18 September 1992. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Gabon Plans To Quit OPEC". The New York Times. 9 January 1995. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  15. ^ a b "Indonesia to withdraw from OPEC". BBC. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c "OPEC discord fuels further oil price drop". The Financial Times. 7 December 2015. 
  17. ^ Noah, Timothy (10 July 2007). "Go NOPEC". Slate. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  18. ^ Noah, Timothy (18 September 2003). "Is Bremer a Price Fixer? Letting Iraq's oil minister attend an OPEC meeting may violate the Sherman Antitrust Act". Slate. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  19. ^ "Iraq to Attend Next OPEC Ministerial Meeting". Arab News. 17 September 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  20. ^ "127th Meeting of the OPEC Conference". OPEC (Press release). 24 September 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "OPEC: Fifty Years Regulating Oil Market Roller Coaster". Inter Press Service. 14 September 2010. 
  22. ^ Gülen, S. Gürcan (1996). "Is OPEC a Cartel? Evidence from Cointegration and Causality Tests" (PDF). The Energy Journal 17 (2): 43–57. doi:10.5547/issn0195-6574-ej-vol17-no2-3. Archived from the original on 16 September 2000. 
  23. ^ "The Global Energy Scene" (PDF). OPEC Bulletin 43 (5): 24–41. June–July 2012. 
  24. ^ Colgan, Jeff (16 October 2013). "40 years after the oil crisis: Could it happen again?". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  25. ^ Farah, Paolo Davide; Cima, Elena (September 2013). "Energy Trade and the WTO: Implications for Renewable Energy and the OPEC Cartel". Journal of International Economic Law 16 (3): 707–740. 
  26. ^ Weil, Dan (25 November 2007). "If OPEC Is a Cartel, Why Isn't It Illegal?". Newsmax. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  27. ^ Joelson, Mark R.; Griffin, Joseph P. (1975). "The Legal Status of Nation-State Cartels Under United States Antitrust and Public International Law". The International Lawyer 9 (4): 617–645. JSTOR 40704964. 
  28. ^ Learsy, Raymond J. (10 September 2012). "NOPEC ('No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act'): A Presidential Issue and a Test of Political Integrity". Huffington Post. Varied forms of a NOPEC bill have been introduced some 16 times since 1999, only to be vehemently resisted by the oil industry. 
  29. ^ a b "Interview With Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi". Middle East Economic Survey 57 (51/52). 22 December 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Saudis Vow to Ignore OPEC Decision to Cut Production". The New York Times. 11 September 2008. 
  31. ^ Palley, Thomas I. (December 2003). "Lifting the Natural Resource Curse". Foreign Service Journal. 
  32. ^ Ross, Michael L. (May 2015). "What Have We Learned about the Resource Curse?". Annual Review of Political Science 18: 239–259. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-052213-040359. 
  33. ^ Kessler, Oren (13 February 2016). "The Middle East's Conflicts Are About Religion". The National Interest. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  34. ^ Motadel, David (24 May 2015). "'Defending the Faith' in the Middle East". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  35. ^ Mattar, Philip, ed. (2004). "Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)". Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa 3 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Gale / Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 978-0028657691. 
  36. ^ "History of the Joint Organisations Data Initiative". JODI. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  37. ^ "World Oil Outlook". OPEC. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  38. ^ a b "Annual Statistical Bulletin". OPEC. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  39. ^ "Monthly Oil Market Report". OPEC. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  40. ^ "OPEC Bulletin". OPEC. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  41. ^ "Oil markets explained". BBC News. 18 October 2007. 
  42. ^ "OPEC Basket Price". OPEC. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  43. ^ "Brent crude and other oil price benchmarks". Reuters. 5 April 2011. 
  44. ^ a b "Energy & Financial Markets: What Drives Crude Oil Prices?". EIA. 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  45. ^ ""Effective" OPEC Spare Capacity: Reality-Based Data" (PDF). IEA Energy (International Energy Agency). November 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  46. ^ "3 billion barrel cushion". Oil Market Report (International Energy Agency). 13 November 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015. 
  47. ^ a b "General Information" (PDF). OPEC. May 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  48. ^ a b Yergin, Daniel (1991). The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 499–503. ISBN 978-0671502485. 
  49. ^ Painter, David S. (2012). "Oil and the American Century" (PDF). The Journal of American History 99 (1): 32. doi:10.1093/jahist/jas073. 
  50. ^ Citino, Nathan J. (2002). From Arab Nationalism to OPEC: Eisenhower, King Sa'ud, and the Making of US-Saudi Relations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-253-34095-5. 
  51. ^ Skeet, Ian (1988). OPEC: Twenty-Five Years of Prices and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 24. 
  52. ^ "Angola, Sudan to ask for OPEC membership". Associated Press. 3 December 2006. 
  53. ^ a b c Maugeri, Leonardo (2006). The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 112–116. ISBN 978-0-275-99008-4. 
  54. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Vol. XXXIV: Energy Diplomacy and Global Issues, Document 266. US Department of State. 1999. Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  55. ^ "British Economics and Trade Union politics 1973–1974". The National Archives (UK). January 2005. Retrieved 29 December 2015. 
  56. ^ "Europe car ban becoming a real traffic stopper". Chicago Tribune. 26 November 1973. 
  57. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. Basic Books. pp. 313–318. ISBN 978-0-465-04195-4. 
  58. ^ "Gas Fever: Happiness Is a Full Tank". Time. 18 February 1974. 
  59. ^ Skidelsky, Robert (2009). Keynes: The Return of the Master. Allen Lane. pp. 116–126. ISBN 978-1-84614-258-1. 
  60. ^ Masouros, Pavlos E. (2013). Corporate Law and Economic Stagnation: How Shareholder Value and Short-Termism Contribute to the Decline of the Western Economies. Eleven International Publishing. pp. 60–62. 
  61. ^ "Energy Crisis (1970s)". The History Channel. 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2015. 
  62. ^ Horton, Sarah (October 2000). "The 1973 Oil Crisis" (PDF). Pennsylvania Envirothon. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  63. ^ "Oil Shock: The role of OPEC". Socialism Today (51). October 2000. 
  64. ^ "Timeline". Kuwait Fund. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  65. ^ "About Us". OFID. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  66. ^ "The Agreement Establishing the OPEC Fund for International Development" (PDF). OPEC. 27 May 1980. Retrieved 12 January 2016. 
  67. ^ a b c Bellamy, Patrick. "Carlos the Jackal: Trail of Terror". truTV. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. 
  68. ^ Follain, John (1998). Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. Arcade Publishing. p. 102. ISBN 978-1559704663. 
  69. ^ "OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet". US Energy Information Administration. 10 January 2006. Archived from the original on 7 January 2008. 
  70. ^ Mouawad, Jad (3 March 2008). "Oil Prices Pass Record Set in ’80s, but Then Recede". The New York Times. 
  71. ^ Denning, Liam (18 May 2016). "It's Saudi Arabia's World. Big Oil Just Lives In It". Bloomberg News. 
  72. ^ Toth, Ferenc L.; Rogner, Hans-Holger (January 2006). "Oil and nuclear power: Past, present, and future" (PDF). Energy Economics 28 (1): 1–25. 
  73. ^ "Renewables in Global Energy Supply: An IEA Fact Sheet" (PDF). International Energy Agency. January 2007. 
  74. ^ "Renewable Energy: World Invests $244 billion in 2012, Geographic Shift to Developing Countries" (Press release). United Nations Environment Programme. 12 June 2013. 
  75. ^ Bromley, Simon (2013). American Power and the Prospects for International Order. John Wiley & Sons. p. 95. ISBN 9780745658414. 
  76. ^ a b c Robert, Paul (2004). The End of Oil: The Decline of the Petroleum Economy and the Rise of a New Energy Order. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-0-618-23977-1. 
  77. ^ Boussena, Sadek (1994). "OPEC's Learning Process". Energy Studies Review 6 (1): 61–72. 
  78. ^ Hershey Jr., Robert D. (30 December 1989). "Worrying Anew Over Oil Imports". The New York Times. 
  79. ^ Gaidar, Yegor (April 2007). "The Soviet Collapse: Grain and Oil" (PDF). American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 12 January 2016. Oil production in Saudi Arabia increased fourfold, while oil prices collapsed by approximately the same amount in real terms. As a result, the Soviet Union lost approximately $20 billion per year, money without which the country simply could not survive. 
  80. ^ McMaken, Ryan (7 November 2014). "The Economics Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall". Mises Institute. Retrieved 12 January 2016. High oil prices in the 1970s propped up the regime so well, that had it not been for Soviet oil sales, it’s quite possible the regime would have collapsed a decade earlier. 
  81. ^ "Brief History". OPEC. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  82. ^ "Libya orders oil cuts of 270K bpd". Associated Press. 30 December 2008. Libya has asked oil companies to slash production by 270,000 barrels per day. Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. told customers in letters dated Dec. 25 that it was cutting ... 10 to 15 percent of all types of ADNOC crude in February. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said the South American nation would suspend crude production by Italy's Agip and reduce quotas for other companies to comply with new OPEC cuts. 
  83. ^ "Report to Congress: United States Gulf Environmental Technical Assistance". US Environmental Protection Agency. 1991. p. 14. Retrieved 11 April 2016. 
  84. ^ a b "Europe Brent Crude Oil Spot Price FOB (DOE)". Quandl. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  85. ^ Ibrahim, Youssef M. (18 July 1990). "Iraq Threatens Emirates and Kuwait on Oil Glut". The New York Times. 
  86. ^ "Iraq heads for OPEC clash over quota". UPI. 5 February 2010. Iraq, a founding member of OPEC, has not had a production quota since 1998, when it was pegged at 1.3 million bpd to allow Saddam Hussein's regime to sell oil for food during U.N. sanctions imposed in 1990... Despite the success of the 2009 auctions, problems remain – mounting violence in the run-up to March 7 parliamentary elections, uncertainty over their outcome, and, probably more importantly, the absence of a long-delayed oil law that will define revenue-sharing and regulation of the industry. 
  87. ^ Putting a Price on Energy (PDF). Energy Charter Secretariat. 2007. p. 90. ISBN 9059480465. 
  88. ^ "Dialogue replaces OPEC–IEA Mistrust" (PDF). IEA Energy (International Energy Agency). November 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  89. ^ Simmons, Greg (7 December 2005). "Dems Doubt Iraq Progress". Fox News. 
  90. ^ "Oil price 'may hit $200 a barrel'". BBC News. 7 May 2008. 
  91. ^ Masters, Michael W. (20 May 2008). "Testimony" (PDF). U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 
  92. ^ Tuttle, Robert; Galal, Ola (10 May 2010). "Oil Ministers See Demand Rising". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  93. ^ "OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet". US Energy Information Administration. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  94. ^ "Opening address to the 159th Meeting of the OPEC Conference". OPEC (Press release). 8 June 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  95. ^ "149th Meeting of the OPEC Conference". OPEC (Press release). 10 September 2008. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  96. ^ Owen, Nick A.; Inderwildi, Oliver R.; King, David A. (August 2010). "The status of conventional world oil reserves: Hype or cause for concern?". Energy Policy 38 (8): 4743–4749. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.02.026. 
  97. ^ Al-Naimi, Ali (20 October 1999). "Saudi oil policy: stability with strength". Saudi Embassy. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. 
  98. ^ Waldman, Peter (12 April 2015). "Saudi Arabia's Plan to Extend the Age of Oil". Bloomberg News. 
  99. ^ Frei, Matt (3 July 2008). "Washington diary: Oil addiction". BBC. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  100. ^ "Monthly Energy Review" (PDF). US Energy Information Administration. April 2016. p. 164. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  101. ^ Krassnov, Clifford (3 November 2014). "US Oil Prices Fall Below $80 a Barrel". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  102. ^ a b Smith, Grant; Rascouet, Angelina; Mahdi, Wael (4 December 2015). "OPEC Won't Cut Production to Stop Oil's Slump". Bloomberg News. 
  103. ^ a b "OPEC Basket Daily Archives". OPEC. Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  104. ^ "Inside OPEC room, Naimi declares price war on US shale oil". Reuters. 28 November 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  105. ^ "Country Analysis Brief: Libya" (PDF). US Energy Information Administration. 19 November 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  106. ^ "Despite Climate Concerns, OPEC Plans to Keep Pumping Oil While It Can". The New York Times. 5 December 2015. 
  107. ^ "OPEC ceiling falls in". Argus Media. 7 December 2015. 
  108. ^ Kalantari, Hashem; Sergie, Mohammed (2 January 2016). "Iran Says Post-Sanctions Crude Output Boost Won't Hurt Prices". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 

External links[edit]