Counting the Cost

Why is OPEC refusing to cut oil production?

We examine OPEC’s decision to increase oil production levels and what this means for its member countries.

Despite plummeting oil prices and a glut in global supplies, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have decided to increase oil production levels amid growing disagreement among members over the strategy.

OPEC, which provides one-third of global oil, recently decided to increase its collective output to 31.5 million barrels per day, despite crude oil prices dropping to a seven-year-low, now hovering around $40 a barrel.

Made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela, the oil cartel has been supplying an already oversupplied market with cheap oil – with all of its members now feeling the pinch.

But countries such as Venezuela have been the hardest hit. With 95 percent of its income from oil, Venezuela is witnessing its worst recession since the 1940s, and the economy is expected to shrink by 10 percent this year. 

Venezuela wants OPEC to change its policy but influential players like Saudi Arabia are insisting on keeping production levels high, because they don’t want to lose customers to non-OPEC producers like the United States.

US oil and shale gas production has been expanding in recent years, and with reduced domestic fuel demand this could lead to less reliance on crude imports and a lifting of its oil export ban.

Kim Zietlow, an economist at Humboldt University in Berlin, joins Counting the Cost to discuss OPEC’s refusal to cut oil production and what this means for the future of the oil cartel.

Iran’s return to the big stage

Iran is about to re-enter the world of oil markets after years of sanctions and isolation.

With the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves and the second-largest reserves of natural gas, the Islamic Republic was pumping around 4.5 million barrels of oil a day 10 years ago before international sanctions brought that down to 2.8 million barrels.

When sanctions are lifted, that could rise by a million barrels a day, depending on whether international companies decide to return and invest there.

Azadeh Meskarian, a solicitor with the Iran Department at Zaiwalla & Co, joins the programme to discuss Iran’s return and the effects it will have on the oil market.