Organization of petroleum exporting countries

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
Flag
HeadquartersVienna, Austria
Official languages English[1]
Type Trade bloc
Membership
Leaders
 -  President Bijan Namdar Zanganeh
 -  Secretary General Abdallah el-Badri
Establishment Baghdad, Iraq
 -  Statute September 10–14, 1960 
 -  in effect January 1961 
Area
 -  Total 11,854,977 km2
4,577,232 sq mi
Population
 -  estimate 372,368,429
 -  Density 31.16/km2
80.7/sq mi
Currency Indexed as USD -per-barrel
Website
www.opec.org

OPEC (/ˈpɛk/ ) (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is an oil cartel whose mission is to coordinate the policies of the oil-producing countries. The goal is to secure a steady income to the member states and to secure supply of oil to the consumers.[2]

OPEC is an intergovernmental organization that was created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10–14, 1960, by Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Later it was joined by nine more governments: Libya, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Indonesia, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, Angola, and Gabon. OPEC was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland before moving to Vienna, Austria, on September 1, 1965.[3]

OPEC was formed at a time when the international oil market was largely separate from centrally planned economies, and was dominated by multinational companies. OPEC's ‘Policy Statement' states that there is a right of all countries to exercise sovereignty over their natural resources.[3]


History

Venezuela and Iran were the first countries to move towards the establishment of OPEC in the 1960s by approaching Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 1949, suggesting that they exchange views and explore avenues for regular and closer communication among petroleum-producing nations. The founding members are Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Later members include Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Libya, Qatar, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates.

In the 1970s, OPEC began to gain influence and steeply raised oil prices during the 1973 Oil Crisis in response to US aid to Israel during the Yom Kippur War.[4] It lasted until March 1974.[5] OPEC added to its goals the selling of oil for socio-economic growth of the poorer member nations, and membership grew to 13 by 1975.[3]

In the 1980s, the price of oil was allowed to rise before the adverse effects of higher prices caused demand and price to fall. The OPEC nations, which depended on revenue from oil sales, experienced severe economic hardship from the lower demand for oil and consequently cut production in order to boost the price of oil. During this time, environmental issues began to emerge on the international energy agenda.[3] Lower demand for oil saw the price of oil fall back to 1986 levels by 1998–99.

In the 2000s, a combination of factors pushed up oil prices even as supply remained high. Prices rose to then record-high levels in mid-2008 before falling in response to the 2007 financial crisis. OPEC's summits in Caracas and Riyadh in 2000 and 2007 had guiding themes of stable energy markets, sustainable oil production, and environmental sustainability.[3]

In 10–14 September 1960, at the initiative of the Venezuelan Energy and Mines minister Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso and the Saudi Arabian Energy and Mines minister Abdullah al-Tariki, the governments of Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela met in Baghdad to discuss ways to increase the price of the crude oil produced by their respective countries.[6][7]


OPEC was founded to unify and coordinate members' petroleum policies. Between 1960 and 1975, the organization expanded to include Qatar (1961), Indonesia (1962), Libya (1962), the United Arab Emirates (1967), Algeria (1969), and Nigeria (1971). Ecuador and Gabon were early members of OPEC, but Ecuador withdrew on December 31, 1992[8] because it was unwilling or unable to pay a $2 million membership fee and felt that it needed to produce more oil than it was allowed to under the OPEC quota,[9] although it rejoined in October 2007. Similar concerns prompted Gabon to suspend membership in January 1995.[10] Angola joined on the first day of 2007. Norway and Russia have attended OPEC meetings as observers. Indicating that OPEC is not averse to further expansion, Mohammed Barkindo, OPEC's Secretary General, recently asked Sudan to join.[11] Iraq remains a member of OPEC, but Iraqi production has not been a part of any OPEC quota agreements since March 1998.

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.[12] A statement released by OPEC on 10 September 2008 confirmed Indonesia's withdrawal, noting that it "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." [13] Indonesia is still exporting light, sweet crude oil and importing heavier, more sour crude oil to take advantage of price differentials (import is greater than export).

1973 oil embargo

Main article: 1973 oil crisis

In October 1973, OPEC declared an oil embargo in response to the United States' and Western Europe's support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The result was a rise in oil prices from $3 per barrel to $12 and the commencement of gas rationing. Other factors in the rise in gasoline prices was the peak of oil production in the United States around 1970 and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar.[14] U.S. gas stations put a limit on the amount of gasoline that could be dispensed, closed on Sundays, and limited the days gasoline could be purchased based on license plates. Even after the embargo concluded, prices continued to rise.[15]

The Oil Embargo of 1973 had a lasting effect on the United States. U.S. citizens began purchasing smaller cars that were more fuel efficient. The Federal government got involved first with President Richard Nixon recommending citizens reduce their speed for the sake of conservation, and later Congress issuing a 55 mph limit at the end of 1973. This change decreased consumption as well as crash fatalities. Daylight savings time was extended year round to reduce electrical use in the American home. Nixon also formed the Energy Department as a cabinet office. People were asked to decrease their thermostats to 65 degrees and factories changed their main energy supply to coal.

One of the most lasting effects of the 1973 oil embargo was a global economic recession. Unemployment rose to the highest percentage on record while inflation also spiked. Consumer interest in large gas guzzling vehicles fell and production dropped. Although the embargo only lasted a year, during that time oil prices had quadrupled and OPEC nations discovered that their oil could be used as both a political and economic weapon against other nations.[16]

1975 hostage incident

Main article: OPEC siege

On 21 December 1975, Ahmed Zaki Yamani and the other oil ministers of the members of OPEC were taken hostage by a six-person team led by terrorist Carlos the Jackal (which included Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann and Hans-Joachim Klein), in Vienna, Austria, where the ministers were attending a meeting at the OPEC headquarters. Carlos planned to take over the conference by force and kidnap all eleven oil ministers in attendance and hold them for ransom, with the exception of Ahmed Zaki Yamani and Iran's Jamshid Amuzegar, who were to be executed.

Carlos led his six-person team past two police officers in the building's lobby and up to the first floor, where a police officer, an Iraqi plain clothes security guard and a young Libyan economist were shot dead.

As Carlos entered the conference room and fired shots in the ceiling, the delegates ducked under the table. The terrorists searched for Ahmed Zaki Yamani and then divided the sixty-three hostages into groups. Delegates of friendly countries were moved toward the door, 'neutrals' were placed in the centre of the room and the 'enemies' were placed along the back wall, next to a stack of explosives. This last group included those from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and the UAE. Carlos demanded a bus to be provided to take his group and the hostages to the airport, where a DC-9 airplane and crew would be waiting. In the meantime, Carlos briefed Yamani on his plan to eventually fly to Aden, where Yamani and Amuzegar would be killed.

The bus was provided the following morning at 6.40 as requested and 42 hostages were boarded and taken to the airport. The group was airborne just after 9.00 and explosives placed under Yamani's seat. The plane first stopped in Algiers, where Carlos left the plane to meet with the Algierian Foreign minister. All 30 non-Arab hostages were released, excluding Amuzegar.

The refueled plane left for Tripoli where there was trouble in acquiring another plane as had been planned. Carlos decided to instead return to Algiers and change to a Boeing 707, a plane large enough to fly to Baghdad nonstop. Ten more hostages were released before leaving.

With only 10 hostages remaining, the Boeing 707 left for Algiers and arrived at 3.40 a.m. After leaving the plane to meet with the Algerians, Carlos talked with his colleagues in the front cabin of the plane and then told Yamani and Amuzegar that they would be released at mid-day. Carlos was then called from the plane a second time and returned after two hours.

At this second meeting it is believed that 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. Yamani's biography suggests that the Algerians had used a covert listening device on the front of the aircraft to overhear the earlier conversation between the terrorists, and found that Carlos had in fact still planned to murder the two oil ministers. Boumédienne must also have offered Carlos asylum at this time and possibly financial compensation for failing to complete his assignment.

On returning to the plane Carlos stood before Yamani and Amuzegar and expressed his regret at not being able to murder them. He then told the hostages that he and his comrades would leave the plane after which they would all be free. After waiting for the terrorists to leave, Yamani and the other nine hostages followed and were taken to the airport by Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The terrorists were present in the next lounge and Khalid, the Palestinian, asked to speak to Yamani. As his hand reached for his coat, Khalid was surrounded by guards and a gun was found concealed in a holster.

Some time after the attack it was revealed by Carlos' accomplices that the operation was commanded by Wadi Haddad, a Palestinian terrorist and founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It was also claimed that the idea and funding came from an Arab president, widely thought to be Muammar al-Gaddafi.

In the years following the OPEC raid, Bassam Abu Sharif and Klein claimed that Carlos had received a large sum of money in exchange for the safe release of the Arab hostages and had kept it for his personal use. There is still some uncertainty regarding the amount that changed hands but it is believed to be between US$20 million and US$50 million. The source of the money is also uncertain, but, according to Klein, it was from "an Arab president." Carlos later told his lawyers that the money was paid by the Saudis on behalf of the Iranians and was, "diverted en route and lost by the Revolution".[17]

The 1980s oil gluts

Main article: 1980s oil glut

In response to the high oil prices of the 1970s, industrial nations took step to reduce dependence on oil. Utilities switched to using coal, natural gas, or nuclear power while national governments initiated multi-billion dollar research programs to develop alternatives to oil. Demand for oil dropped by five million barrels a day while oil production outside of OPEC rose by fourteen million barrels daily by 1986. During this time, the percentage of oil produced by OPEC fell from 50% to 29%. The result was a six-year price decline that culminated with a 46 percent price drop in 1986.

In order to combat falling revenues, Saudi Arabia pushed for production quotas to limit production and boost prices. When other OPEC nations failed to comply, Saudi Arabia slashed production from 10 million barrels daily in 1980 to just one-quarter of that level in 1985. When this proved ineffective, Saudi Arabia reversed course and flooded the market with cheap oil, causing prices to fall to under ten dollars a barrel. The result was that high price production zones in areas such as the North Sea became too expensive. Countries in OPEC that had previously failed to comply to quotas began to limit production in order to shore up prices.[19]

Responding to war and low prices

Leading up to the 1990–91 Gulf War, The President of Iraq Saddam Hussein recommended that OPEC should push world oil prices up, helping all OPEC members financially. But the division of OPEC countries occasioned by the Iraq-Iran War and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait marked a low point in the cohesion of OPEC. Once supply disruption fears that accompanied these conflicts dissipated, oil prices began to slide dramatically.

After oil prices slumped at around $15 a barrel in the late 1990s, joint diplomacy achieved a slowing down of oil production beginning in 1998. In 2000, Chávez hosted the first summit of OPEC in 25 years. The next year, however, the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States,and the following invasion of Afghanistan, and 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation prompted a sharp rise in oil prices to levels far higher than those targeted by OPEC themselves during the previous period. Indonesia withdrew from OPEC in 2009 to protect its oil supply.

On 19 November 2007, global oil prices reacted violently as OPEC members spoke openly about potentially converting their cash reserves to the euro and away from the US dollar.[20]

Production disputes

The economic needs of the OPEC member states often affects the internal politics behind OPEC production quotas. Various members have pushed for reductions in production quotas to increase the price of oil and thus their own revenues.[21] These demands 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.[22] Part of the basis for this policy is the Saudi concern that expensive oil or oil of uncertain supply will drive developed nations to conserve and develop alternative fuels. To this point, former Saudi Oil Minister Sheikh Yamani famously said in 1973: "The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones."[23]

One such production dispute occurred on 10 September 2008, when the Saudis reportedly walked out of OPEC negotiating session where the organization voted to reduce production. Although Saudi Arabian OPEC delegates officially endorsed the new quotas, they stated anonymously that they would not observe them. The New York Times quoted one such anonymous OPEC 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.”[24]

OPEC aid

OPEC aid dates from well before the 1973/74 oil price explosion. Kuwait has operated a programme since 1961 (through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development). The OPEC fund became a fully fledged permanent international development agency in May 1980.

Membership

Current members

OPEC has twelve member countries: six in the Middle East, four in Africa, and two in South America.

Country Region Joined OPEC[25] Population
(July 2012)[26]
Area (km²)[27] Production (bbl/day)
 Algeria Africa 1969 37,367,226 2,381,740 2,125,000 (16th)
 Angola Africa 2007 18,056,072 1,246,700 1,948,000 (17th)
 Ecuador South America 2007[A 1] 15,223,680 283,560 485,700 (30th)
 Iran [28] Middle East 1960[A 2] 78,868,711 1,648,000 4,172,000 (4th)
 Iraq Middle East 1960[A 2] 31,129,225 437,072 3,200,000 (12th)
 Kuwait Middle East 1960[A 2] 2,646,314 17,820 2,494,000 (10th)
 Libya Africa 1962 5,613,380 1,759,540 2,210,000 (15th)
 Nigeria Africa 1971 170,123,740 923,768 2,211,000 (14th)
 Qatar Middle East 1961 1,951,591 11,437 1,213,000 (21st)
 Saudi Arabia Middle East 1960[A 2] 26,534,504 2,149,690 8,800,000 (1st)
 United Arab Emirates Middle East 1967 5,314,317 83,600 2,798,000 (8th)
 Venezuela South America 1960[A 2] 28,047,938 912,050 2,472,000 (11th)
Total 369,368,429 11,854,977 km² 33,327,700 bbl/day

Former members

Country Region Joined OPEC Left OPEC
 Gabon Africa 1975 1994
 Indonesia South East Asia 1962 2009

Some commentators consider that the United States was a de facto member during its formal occupation of Iraq due to its leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority.[29][30] But this is not borne out by the minutes of OPEC meetings, as no U.S. representative attended in an official capacity.[31][32]

Indonesia left OPEC in 2009 because it ceased to be a net exporter of oil. It could not fulfill the demand of its own country's needs, as growth in demand outstripped output. The situation was made worse because of weak legal certainty and corruption that deterred foreign investors from investing in new reserves in Indonesia. In recent times, the government has increased financial incentives for foreign firms to invest in exploration and extraction but has found itself forced to import more supplies from the likes of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Indonesia's departure from OPEC will not likely affect the amount of oil it produces or imports. The country's growing dependence on imports is proving increasingly expensive as global prices soar.[33]

Economics

OPEC is a swing producer[34] and its decisions have had considerable influence on international oil prices. For example, in the 1973 energy crisis some OPEC members refused to ship oil to western countries that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War, which Israel had fought against Egypt and Syria. This refusal caused a fourfold increase in the price of oil, which lasted five months, starting on October 17, 1973, and ending on March 18, 1974. OPEC nations then agreed, on January 7, 1975, to raise crude oil prices by 10%. At that time, OPEC nations — including many who had recently nationalized their oil industries — joined the call for a new international economic order to be initiated by coalitions of primary producers. Concluding the First OPEC Summit in Algiers they called for stable and just commodity prices, an international food and agriculture program, technology transfer from North to South, and the democratization of the economic system . Overall, the evidence suggests that OPEC did act as a cartel when it adopted output rationing in order to maintain price.[35]

According to US government, in 2011 OPEC will break above the $1 trillion mark earnings for the first time at $1.034 trillion and it is beating the $965 billion peak set in 2008.[36]

Sustainability

According to Mikael Höök, who researches the life cycles of oil fields, despite technological advances that increase the productivity of oil wells, the rate of decline of oil fields will eventually increase as time continues.[37] Energy policy expert Joyce Dargay accuses OPEC, along with several other institutions, of drastically underpredicting future oil demand by 2030 by more than 25%, a difference of 28 million barrels per day (4,500,000 m3/d) or about twice the current amount supplied by Saudi Arabia.[38]

Quotas circa 2005

OPEC Quotas and Production in thousands of barrels per day [39]
Country Quota (7/1/05) Production (1/07) Capacity
 Saudi Arabia 10,099 9,800 12,500
 Algeria 894 1,360 1,430
 Angola 1,900 1,700 1,700
 Ecuador 520 500 500
 Iran 4,110 3,700 3,750
 Iraq 1,481
 Kuwait 2,247 2,500 2,600
 Libya 1,500 1,650 1,700
 Nigeria 2,306 2,250 2,250
 Qatar 726 810 850
 United Arab Emirates 2,444 2,500 2,600
 Venezuela 3,225 2,340 2,450
Total 29,971 29,591 32,330

See also

Energy portal


References

Notes
Bibliography

External links

  • Le Monde diplomatique, May 2006
  • The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) official site
  • Stefan Schaller on OPEC's inability to control the market
  • Statistics of the fuel oil prices from 2010 to 2011 in Germany, PDF – May 2011

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