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Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

By Michael Flannelly · December 28, 2022 · 7 minute read

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Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, an intergovernmental organization of 13 nations focused on coordinating and unifying the oil production policies of its member countries. The organization was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.

OPEC’s primary goal is to regulate the supply of oil to stabilize the market and ensure that member countries receive an ideal price for their oil. To achieve this, the organization holds regular meetings where member countries discuss current market conditions and decide on production levels for each country. By controlling the oil supply, OPEC can influence the price of oil on the global market, which affects the global economy and, thus, investors.

What Is OPEC?

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel of oil-producing countries founded in 1960 in Baghdad, Iraq. The founding members of OPEC were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Since then, the group has expanded to include 13 current member countries, including Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, and Libya.

As noted above, the main function of OPEC is to regulate the oil supply that its member countries produce to manage the price of the global oil market. The organization achieves this by setting production levels, conducting research, and promoting cooperation among member countries.

Despite its power, OPEC has faced criticism in recent years for its production policies. Some critics claim that OPEC’s decisions to limit oil production have led to higher oil prices that benefit member countries while harming the global economy and consumers. Others argue that the cartel’s power has diminished in recent years due to increased competition from non-OPEC countries such as the United States and Canada.

Which Countries Are Members of OPEC?

OPEC currently has 13 member countries. At its height, OPEC had 16 member countries, but Qatar, Ecuador, and Indonesia withdrew membership in recent years.

The current member countries of OPEC are:

•   Algeria

•   Angola

•   Condo

•   Equatorial Guinea

•   Gabon

•   Iran

•   Iraq

•   Kuwait

•   Libya

•   Nigeria

•   Saudi Arabia

•   United Arab Emirates

•   Venezuela

These countries are major producers and exporters of oil, and they play a significant role in the global oil market. Together, they account for about 80% of the world’s crude oil reserves and produce about 40% of the world’s oil. This makes OPEC a major player in the global energy market and allows it to wield significant power in setting the price of oil.

However, several large oil-producing countries that are not a part of OPEC, including:

•   The United States is the world’s largest oil producer and consumer.

•   Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer.

•   China is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer and the second-largest oil-consuming country.

•   Brazil is the eighth-largest oil-producing country.

The decisions of oil producers in these countries may counteract OPEC policies.

OPEC vs OPEC Plus

OPEC Plus (commonly written as OPEC+) is an extension of OPEC that includes a number of non-OPEC countries that have significant oil industries. These countries have joined forces with OPEC in an effort to collectively manage the global oil market and stabilize oil prices. OPEC+ was formed in 2016 and currently includes Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mexico, Malaysia, Oman, South Sudan, and Sudan.

The main difference between OPEC and OPEC+ is that the latter is a broader group that includes both OPEC and non-OPEC countries, and was formed more recently in response to changing market conditions. Both groups have the same goal of regulating the supply of oil to stabilize the global oil market.

💡 Latest OPEC news: How OPEC+ Cutting Oil Production Impacts Your Finances

What Is the Purpose of OPEC?

The main purpose of OPEC is to coordinate and unify the oil, gas, and energy policies of its member countries. This is done to stabilize the international oil market and secure fair and stable prices for energy producers in the member countries. By working together, OPEC member countries can ensure that they are able to influence the supply of oil in the global market, which in turn can help to maintain stable prices.

Pros and Cons of OPEC

The pros of OPEC include:

•   Stabilizing the market: By regulating the supply of oil, OPEC can help to stabilize the global oil market and prevent prices from fluctuating wildly. This can provide a degree of predictability and reliability for both producers and consumers.

•   Ensuring fair prices: OPEC’s goal is to ensure that member countries receive fair prices for their oil. By controlling the supply of oil, the organization can influence the price of oil on the global market and help to ensure that member countries are not exploited by outside parties.

•   Providing economic benefits: The oil industry is a major source of revenue for many of the member countries of OPEC. By controlling the supply of oil, OPEC can help to maximize the economic benefits for its member countries.

The cons of OPEC include:

•   Harming the global economy: Critics argue that OPEC’s decisions to limit oil production can lead to higher oil prices, which can harm the global economy and consumers. High oil prices can lead to inflation and reduce the purchasing power of consumers, which can slow economic growth.

•   Diminishing power: Some argue that the power of OPEC has diminished in recent years as a result of increased competition from non-OPEC countries such as the United States and Canada. This has led to a more fragmented and complex global oil market, which has reduced OPEC’s ability to influence the price of oil.

•   Facilitating corruption: Because OPEC is a cartel of oil-producing countries, it has been criticized for facilitating corruption and non-transparent practices. This can lead to abuses of power and mismanagement of oil revenues, which can have negative consequences for both the member countries and the global market.

How Does OPEC Affect Oil Prices?

OPEC’s decisions about production levels can have a significant impact on the price of oil. If OPEC decides to reduce production levels, it can lead to a decrease in the global supply of oil, which can cause the price of oil to increase. On the other hand, if OPEC decides to raise production levels, it can increase the global supply of oil, which can cause the price of oil to decrease.

Therefore, OPEC’s decisions about production levels can significantly impact the price of oil on the global market, as well as global investments. By controlling the oil supply, the organization can influence the price of oil and help ensure that member countries receive fair prices for their oil.

However, OPEC’s influence on oil prices has arguably waned in recent years, largely because the United States has become the world’s largest producer and one of the largest exporters of oil. Because the U.S. has grown its oil-production market share, it has lessened the influence of OPEC on the markets.

OPEC is also facing challenges to its oil hegemony because of the rise of renewable energy sources, like solar energy, which may lessen the demand for oil in the future.

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Does OPEC Affect Investing in the Oil Sector?

The decisions made by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) may affect investors. Because OPEC members control a large portion of the world’s oil supply, its decisions about production levels can affect the global supply of oil and, ultimately, the price of oil on the market.

If OPEC decides to reduce production levels, it can lead to a decrease in the global supply of oil, which can cause the price of oil to increase. This can be beneficial for investors who have invested in energy stocks or oil-related assets, as they may see an increase in the value of their investments. However, higher oil prices could also harm the global economy, which may be a drag on an investor’s overall portfolio.

On the other hand, if OPEC decides to boost production levels, it can increase the global oil supply, which can cause the price of oil to decrease. This can be detrimental for investors who have invested in oil companies or oil-related assets, as they may see a decrease in the value of their investments.

Therefore, it is essential for investors to monitor OPEC’s decisions and how they may affect the global oil market. By understanding the organization and its role in the market, investors can make more informed decisions about their investments in the oil industry.

💡 Recommended: How and Why to Invest in Oil

The Takeaway

OPEC is a major player in the global oil market and economy. When the organization meets and makes production decisions, it can ultimately affect consumers at the gas pump and investors’ portfolios. Thus, staying up to speed with OPEC and its decisions can help you understand how the organization affects your wallet.

If you’re interested in investing in the energy sector, SoFi can help. With a SoFi Invest® online brokerage account, you can trade energy-related stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETF), along with cryptocurrency, IPOs, and more, with no commissions for as little as $5. All you need to do is open an account.

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