Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
Headquarters Vienna, Austria
Official languages English[1]
Type Trade bloc
Member states
 -  President Rostam Ghasemi
 -  Secretary General Abdallah el-Badri
Establishment Baghdad, Iraq
 -  Statute September 10–14, 1960
in effect January 1961 
 -  Total 11,854,977 km2 
4,577,232 sq mi 
 -   estimate 372,368,429 
 -  Density 31.16/km2 
80.7/sq mi
Currency Indexed as USD-per-barrel

OPEC (play /ˈpɛk/ oh-pek; Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is an intergovernmental organization of twelve developing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. OPEC has maintained its headquarters in Vienna since 1965,[2] and hosts regular meetings among the oil ministers of its Member Countries. Indonesia withdrew in 2008 after it became a net importer of oil, but stated it would likely return if it became a net exporter again.[3]

According to its statutes, one of the principal goals is the determination of the best means for safeguarding the organization's interests, individually and collectively. It also pursues ways and means of ensuring the stabilization of prices in international oil markets with a view to eliminating harmful and unnecessary fluctuations; giving due regard at all times to the interests of the producing nations and to the necessity of securing a steady income to the producing countries; an efficient and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations, and a fair return on their capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.[4]

OPEC's influence on the market has been widely criticized, since it became effective in determining production and prices. Arab members of OPEC alarmed the developed world when they used the “oil weapon” during the Yom Kippur War by implementing oil embargoes and initiating the 1973 oil crisis. Although largely political explanations for the timing and extent of the OPEC price increases are also valid, from OPEC’s point of view[citation needed], these changes were triggered largely by previous unilateral changes in the world financial system and the ensuing period of high inflation in both the developed and developing world. This explanation encompasses OPEC actions both before and after the outbreak of hostilities in October 1973, and concludes that “OPEC countries were only 'staying even' by dramatically raising the dollar price of oil.”[5]

OPEC's ability to control the price of oil has diminished somewhat since then, due to the subsequent discovery and development of large oil reserves in Alaska, the North Sea, Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, the opening up of Russia, and market modernization. As of November 2010, OPEC members collectively hold 79% of world crude oil reserves and 44% of the world’s crude oil production, affording them considerable control over the global market.[6] The next largest group of producers, members of the OECD and the Post-Soviet states produced only 23.8% and 14.8%, respectively, of the world's total oil production.[7] As early as 2003, concerns that OPEC members had little excess pumping capacity sparked speculation that their influence on crude oil prices would begin to slip.[8][9]



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, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Later members include Algeria, 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 Alfonzo 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]

Oil exports imports difference

OPEC was founded to unify and coordinate members' petroleum policies. Original OPEC members include Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. 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[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, recently 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) due to Air pollution in Indonesia still being low as compared to China or The United States.

1973 Oil Embargo

The 1973 Oil Embargo happened in October due to the fact that the United States and Western Europe supported Israel against other Arab nations in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. One of the main nations that was angered by the support given to Israel was Iran. As a nation Iran decided that they were no longer going to be a resource of oil for the United States and Western Europe. In doing so, the oil pricing for the United States went up from 3 dollars a barrel to 12 dollars a barrel. The United States began a gas rationing. This was when gas stations would put a limit to who could get gas on certain days. It depended on the last digit of your license plate whether you would get gas on odd or even days of the month. Once the Embargo ended prices still kept rising. [16] After the Oil Embargo of 1973 it had a great effect on the United States. The U.S citizens began looking into smaller cars that were more economical. The embargo forced America to consider many things about energy, such as the cost and supply, which up until the embargo no one really cared about. The government began taking desperate measures in order to improve the situation. Congress issued a 55mph speed limit on highways once the embargo went into effect. This was a good thing because not only did oil consumption go down, but fatalities decreased overnight as well. Daylight savings time was issued as well year round instead of just half in an effort to reduce electrical use in the American home. Nixon had also formed the Energy Department in an effort to help out the energy crisis. It became a cabinet office. Gas stations would close on Sundays, sell 10 gallons at a time, and refuse to sell to people who were not regulars also. People would decrease their thermostats to 65 degrees and factories changed their main energy supply to coal. One of the most lasting effects of the Oil Embargo of 1973 was an economic recession throughout the world. Unemployment flew to a record high percentage as well as inflation. In Detroit, production of giant gas guzzling vehicles came to a stop in order to preserve oil and raise the economy back up. Although the embargo only lasted one year, oil prices had quadrupled and a new era of international relations was opened. Arab nations discovered that their oil could be used as both a political and economic weapon to other nations. [17]

1975 hostage incident

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 Ahmed Zaki Yamani on his plan to eventually fly to Aden, where Yamani and the Iranian minister 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 Amouzegar 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".[18]

The 1980s oil gluts

OPEC net oil export revenues for 1971 - 2007.[19]

After 1980, oil prices began a six-year decline that culminated with a 46 percent price drop in 1986. This was due to reduced demand and over-production that produced a glut on the world market. Around this period, Iraq also increased its oil production to help pay for the Iran-Iraq War. Overall OPEC lost its unity and thus its net oil export revenues fell in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Responding to war and low prices

Leading up to the 1990-91 Gulf War, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein advocated that OPEC push world oil prices up, thereby helping Iraq, and other member states, service debts. 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, concerted diplomacy, sometimes attributed to Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez, achieved a coordinated scaling back of oil production beginning in 1998. In 2000, Chávez hosted the first summit of heads of state of OPEC in 25 years. The next year, however, the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, the following invasion of Afghanistan, and 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation prompted a surge in oil prices to levels far higher than those targeted by OPEC during the preceding period. Indonesia withdrew from OPEC to protect its oil supply interests.

On November 19, 2007, global oil prices reacted strongly 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 September 10, 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.


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 2008)[26]
Area (km²)[27]
 Algeria Africa 1969 33,779,668 2,381,740
 Angola Africa 2007 12,531,357 1,246,700
 Ecuador South America 2007[A 1] 13,927,650 283,560
 Iran Middle East 1960[A 2] 75,875,224 1,648,000
 Iraq Middle East 1960[A 2] 28,221,180 437,072
 Kuwait Middle East 1960[A 2] 2,596,799 17,820
 Libya Africa 1962 6,173,579 1,759,540
 Nigeria Africa 1971 158,259,000 923,768
 Qatar Middle East 1961 824,789 11,437
 Saudi Arabia Middle East 1960[A 2] 28,146,656 2,149,690
 United Arab Emirates Middle East 1967 4,621,399 83,600
 Venezuela South America 1960[A 2] 26,414,816 912,050
Total 369,368,429 11,854,977 km²
  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

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

The United States was a de facto member during its formal occupation of Iraq via the Coalition Provisional Authority.[28][29]

Indonesia left OPEC in 2008 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.[30]


OPEC is a swing producer[31] 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[citation needed]. Overall, the evidence suggests that OPEC did act as a cartel when it adopted output rationing in order to maintain price.[32]

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.[33]


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.[34] Energy policy expert Joyce Dargay accuses OPEC, along with several other institutions, of drastically under predicting 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.[35]

Quotas circa 2005

OPEC Quotas and Production in thousands of barrels per day [36]
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 30,330


  1. ^ "OPEC Statute" (PDF). Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 2008. p. 8. http://www.opec.org/opec_web/static_files_project/media/downloads/publications/OS.pdf. Retrieved 8 June 2011. "English shall be the official language of the Organization." 
  2. ^ OPEC: Brief History
  3. ^ "OPEC says Indonesia has suspended organization membership". Forbes.com. 10 September 2008. http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2008/09/10/afx5406908.html. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  4. ^ Chapter I, Article 2 of The Statute of the organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (as amended)
  5. ^ Hammes, David and Wills, Douglas. “Black Gold: The End of Bretton Woods and the Oil-Price Shocks of the 1970s,” The Independent Review, v. IX, n. 4, Spring 2005. pp. 501-511.[1]
  6. ^ http://www.turquoisepartners.com/iraninvestment/IIM-Nov10.pdf
  7. ^ BP plc. "British Petroleum table of world oil production". Retrieved June 18, 2007.
  8. ^ "Is Opec Losing Control Over Oil Price?". Al Jazeera English. http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=6664. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  9. ^ "Is OPEC About to Lose Control of the Spigot?". BusinessWeek. 2003-01-20. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_03/b3816074.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  10. ^ OPEC, by Benjamin Zycher: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics: Library of Economics and Liberty[dead link]
  11. ^ "Ecuador Set to Leave OPEC". The New York Times. September 18, 1992. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE4DF1F3AF93BA2575AC0A964958260. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Gabon Plans To Quit OPEC - NYTimes.com". New York Times. 1995-01-09. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE0D91539F93AA35752C0A963958260. Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  13. ^ Angola, Sudan to ask for OPEC membership Houston Chronicle
  14. ^ Indonesia to withdraw from Opec
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^ Clark,F.,Hushour,J.,Reinholtz,N.,Reniers,A.,Rich,S.,Smith,A.Z.,Torres,J.,(2009, 2010). The plaid avenger.Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  17. ^ http://www.envirothonpa.org/documents/The1973OilCrisis.pdf
  18. ^ "Carlos the Jackal: Trail of Terror, Parts 1 and 2 — 'The Famous Carlos' — Crime Library on". Trutv.com. http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/terrorists_spies/terrorists/jackal/12.html. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  19. ^ http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/OPEC_Revenues/OPEC.html
  20. ^ [3][dead link]
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ Speech by Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi: Saudi oil policy: stability with strength
  23. ^ Washington diary: Oil addiction
  24. ^ Saudis Vow to Ignore OPEC Decision to Cut Production
  25. ^ "Who are OPEC Member Countries?". Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. http://www.opec.org/library/faqs/aboutopec/q3.htm. Retrieved 4 January 2009. [dead link]
  26. ^ "Field Listing - Population". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2119.html. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  27. ^ "Field Listing - Area". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2147.html. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  28. ^ Noah, Timothy (2007-07-10). "Go NOPEC! Congress takes on the biggest, baddest organization of all". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2170040/nav/tap3/. Retrieved 2009-08-21. 
  29. ^ Noah, Timothy (2003-09-18). "Is Bremer a Price Fixer? Letting Iraq's oil minister attend an OPEC meeting may violate the Sherman Antitrust Act". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2088602/. 
  30. ^ "Indonesia to withdraw from OPEC". BBC News. 2008-05-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7423008.stm. 
  31. ^ Iraq emerges as new ‘swing producer’ in Opec
  32. ^ http://fmwww.bc.edu/EC-P/WP318.pdf
  33. ^ More than $1,000 billion earnings
  34. ^ Höök, Mikael, Robert Hirsch, and Kjell Aleklett. "Giant Oil Field Decline Rates and their Influence on World Oil Production." Energy Policy 37.6 (2009): pg 2271.
  35. ^ Dargay, Joyce M., and Dermot Gately. "World Oil demand’s Shift Toward Faster Growing and Less Price-Responsive Products and Regions." Energy Policy 38.10 (2010): pg. 6272
  36. ^ Quotas as reported by the United States Department of Energy

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