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Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
HeadquartersVienna, Austria
Official languagesEnglish[1]
TypeTrade bloc
 - PresidentBijan Namdar Zanganeh
 - Secretary GeneralAbdallah el-Badri
EstablishmentBaghdad, Iraq
 - Statute10–14 September 1960 
 - in effectJanuary 1961 
 - Total11,854,977 km2
4,577,232 sq mi
 - estimate372,368,429
 - Density31.16/km2
80.7/sq mi
CurrencyIndexed as USD -per-barrel
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Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
HeadquartersVienna, Austria
Official languagesEnglish[1]
TypeTrade bloc
 - PresidentBijan Namdar Zanganeh
 - Secretary GeneralAbdallah el-Badri
EstablishmentBaghdad, Iraq
 - Statute10–14 September 1960 
 - in effectJanuary 1961 
 - Total11,854,977 km2
4,577,232 sq mi
 - estimate372,368,429
 - Density31.16/km2
80.7/sq mi
CurrencyIndexed as USD -per-barrel

OPEC (/ˈpɛk/ OH-pek) (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 10–14 September 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] Because OPEC is an organisation of countries (not oil companies), individual members have sovereign immunity for their actions, meaning that OPEC is not regarded as being subject to competition law in the normal way.[4][5]

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.[6] It lasted until March 1974.[7] 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]


The new OPEC headquarters in Vienna

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.[citation needed] The founding members are Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Later members include Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Libya, Qatar, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates.

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.[citation needed][8][9]

Oil exports imports difference

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 31 December 1992[10] 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,[11] although it rejoined in October 2007. Similar concerns prompted Gabon to suspend membership in January 1995.[12] 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, asked Sudan to join.[13] 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.[14] 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."[15] 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[edit]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[citation needed] 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[citation needed] as well as crash fatalities.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[18]

1975 hostage incident[edit]

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[citation needed] 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".[19]

The 1980s oil gluts[edit]

OPEC net oil export revenues for 1971 - 2007.[20]

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.[21]

Responding to war and low prices[edit]

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.[22]

Production disputes[edit]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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."[25]

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.”[26]

OPEC aid[edit]

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 Special Fund "was conceived [...] in Algiers, Algeria, in March 1975", and formerly founded early the following year. "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", operating under a reasoning that the Fund's "resources are additional to those already made available by OPEC states through a number of bilateral and multilateral channels." The Fund was later renamed as the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).[27]

The Fund became a fully fledged permanent international development agency in May 1980 and was renamed the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the designation it currently holds.


Current members[edit]

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

CountryRegionJoined OPEC[28]Population
(July 2012)[29]
Area (km²)[30]Production (bbl/day)
 AlgeriaAfrica196937,367,2262,381,7402,125,000 (16th)
 AngolaAfrica200718,056,0721,246,7001,948,000 (17th)
 EcuadorSouth America2007[A 1]15,223,680283,560485,700 (30th)
 IranMiddle East1960[A 2]78,868,7111,648,0004,172,000 (4th)
 IraqMiddle East1960[A 2]31,129,225437,0723,200,000 (12th)
 KuwaitMiddle East1960[A 2]2,646,31417,8202,494,000 (10th)
 LibyaAfrica19625,613,3801,759,5402,210,000 (15th)
 NigeriaAfrica1971170,123,740923,7682,211,000 (14th)
 QatarMiddle East19611,951,59111,4371,213,000 (21st)
 Saudi ArabiaMiddle East1960[A 2]26,534,5042,149,6908,800,000 (2nd)
 United Arab EmiratesMiddle East19675,314,31783,6002,798,000 (8th)
 VenezuelaSouth America1960[A 2]28,047,938912,0502,472,000 (11th)
Total369,368,42911,854,977 km²33,327,700 bbl/day
  1. ^ Ecuador initially joined in 1973, left in 1992, and rejoined in 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e One of five founder members that attended the first OPEC conference, in September 1960.

Former members[edit]

CountryRegionJoined OPECLeft OPEC
 IndonesiaSouth East Asia19622009

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.[31][32] But this is not borne out by the minutes of OPEC meetings, as no U.S. representative attended in an official capacity.[33][34]

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.[35]


OPEC is a swing producer[36] 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 17 October 1973, and ending on 18 March 1974. OPEC nations then agreed, on 7 January 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.[citation needed] Overall, the evidence suggests that OPEC did act as a cartel when it adopted output rationing in order to maintain price.[37]

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.[38]


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.[39] 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.[40]

Quotas circa 2005[edit]

OPEC Quotas and Production in thousands of barrels per day[41]
CountryQuota (7/1/05)Production (1/07)Capacity
 Saudi Arabia10,0999,80012,500
 United Arab Emirates2,4442,5002,600

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "OPEC Statute" (PDF). Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 2008. p. 8. Retrieved 8 June 2011. "English shall be the official language of the Organization." 
  2. ^ "Our Mission". OPEC. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Brief History". OPEC. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  4. ^ Weil, Dan (25 November 2007). "If OPEC is a Cartel, Why isn't It Illegal?". Newsmax. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  5. ^ . JSTOR 40704964.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "Responding to Crisis". Envhist. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "OPEC Oil Embargo 1973–1974". U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Citino 2002, p. 4: "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."
  9. ^ Painter 2012, p. 32: "In September 1960, after the major oil companies had twice unilaterally reduced the prices that were used to calculate how much revenue producing countries received, the oil ministers of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela formed the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries […] eventually gain[ing] power over pricing in the 1970s".
  10. ^ OPEC, by Benjamin Zycher: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics: Library of Economics and Liberty at the Wayback Machine (archived March 11, 2002)
  11. ^ "Ecuador Set to Leave OPEC". The New York Times. 18 September 1992. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Gabon Plans To Quit OPEC". The New York Times. 9 January 1995. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  13. ^ Angola, Sudan to ask for OPEC membership Houston Chronicle
  14. ^ Indonesia to withdraw from OPEC BBC. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  15. ^ Press release at the Wayback Machine (archived September 13, 2008)
  16. ^ The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and Future of the World's Most Controversial Resource page 113
  17. ^ Clark,F.,Hushour,J.,Reinholtz,N.,Reniers,A.,Rich,S.,Smith,A.Z.,Torres,J.,(2009, 2010). The plaid avenger.Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  18. ^ "1973 Oil crisis". Environment. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "Carlos the Jackal: Trail of Terror, Parts 1 and 2 — 'The Famous Carlos'". Trutv. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  20. ^ "OPEC Revenues". U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  21. ^ Robert 2004, pp. 103–4.
  22. ^ Steve Hargreaves. (20 November 2007). Ditching the dollar CNN. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  23. ^ Nick A. Owen, Oliver R. Inderwildi, David A. King (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. 
  24. ^ Speech by Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al Naimi: Saudi oil policy: stability with strength Saudi Embassy. 1999.
  25. ^ Matt Frei. (3 July 2008). Washington diary: Oil addiction BBC. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  26. ^ Saudis Vow to Ignore OPEC Decision to Cut Production The New York Times. 11 September 2008.
  27. ^ OFID at a Glance OFID. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  28. ^ "OPEC: Member countries". Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  29. ^ "Field Listing – Population". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  30. ^ "Field Listing – Area". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  31. ^ Timothy Noah (10 July 2007). "Go NOPEC". Slate. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  32. ^ Timothy Noah (18 September 2003). "Is Bremer a Price Fixer? Letting Iraq's oil minister attend an OPEC meeting may violate the Sherman Antitrust Act". Slate. 
  33. ^ "Iraq to Attend Next OPEC Ministerial Meeting". Arab News. 17 September 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  34. ^ "127th Meeting of the OPEC Conference". OPEC. 24 September 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  35. ^ "Indonesia to withdraw from OPEC". BBC News. 28 May 2008. 
  36. ^ Iraq emerges as new ‘swing producer’ in OPEC Dawn. 26 March 2006.
  37. ^ Gülen, S. Gürcan (1996). "Is OPEC a Cartel? Evidence from Cointegration and Causality Tests". The Energy Journal 17 (2): 43–57. 
  38. ^ More than $1,000 billion earnings
  39. ^ Höök, M.; Hirsch, R.; Aleklett, K. (2009). "Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production". Energy Policy 37 (6): 2262. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2009.02.020.  edit
  40. ^ Dargay, J. M.; Gately, D. (2010). "World oil demand's shift toward faster growing and less price-responsive products and regions". Energy Policy 38 (10): 6261. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.06.014.  edit
  41. ^ "OPEC Revenues: Country Details". United States Department of Energy. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. 

External links[edit]