Petropolitics represents the jockeying for power among the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC was formed in 1960 in order to help unite and coordinate the petroleum policies of the member nations and to protect their interests. While OPEC conducts research on energy, energy finance, economics and technology, its main purpose is to hold regular meetings where the oil ministers of each member nation meet to set production quotas and determine oil prices. The 1990s have been a time of change for OPEC members. Not only was the Gulf War responsible for a shifting dynamic among member nations, especially with regard to Iraq, but the spiraling of oil prices for most of the decade created additional animosity and conflict among the member nations. The result was an over-supply of oil on the market with the consequence of spiraling crude oil prices. Recently, OPEC’s decision to limited production has driven prices up significantly, with U.S. politicians urging President Clinton to take a harsher stance toward Middle East oil policies. OPEC is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. OPEC now consists of twelve members (Ecuador withdrew in 1992), listed here in order of size of their crude oil reserves:
MEMBER NATION CRUDE RESERVES GAS RESERVES
(Thousand million tons) (Trillion cubic meters)
In 1976, OPEC members formed the OPEC Fund for International Development, an agency designed to allow member nations to help developing countries through financial assistance and to fund other kinds of projects. For example, in 1991, the fund committed “$181.5 million in assistance, of which 55% went to projects in the Sub-Saharna African region.” The OPEC ministers typically hold meetings twice a year and during these meeting formulate general policy. During the 1970s, OPEC reached its pinnacle of power. Oil production was cut drastically during those years, from 1973-1975 and 1979-1980. ...