OPEC at high noon 1974-1981
Author(s)Adelman, Morris Albert
After 1973, oil consumption stagnated worldwide. Non-OPEC output increased, mostly in Alaska, Mexico, and the North Sea, but not because of the price rise. The cartel nations had to assume the whole burden of cutting back output to maintain price. The demand for OPEC oil, the difference between total demand and non-OPEC supply, declined accordingly. From early 1974, current producing capacity much exceeded current output. The oil companies were expropriated from production. They were no longer a buffer between the OPEC nations and the market, and no longer equated the amount of crude supplied with the amount demanded.Thus it was more difficult for the cartel nations to cope with their two objectives: (1) A price and total cartel output to keep or improve total cartel revenues. (2) A division of the market acceptable to the members, at least for the time being. Each objective is difficult, both together much more so. All solutions are temporary. What is right today is wrong tomorrow. The optimal price/output combination may change, or its perception may change. Members may cheat, or the burden of restriction may become intolerably great for one or more sellers. Despite shrinking demand the loss of the oil companies as agents, the OPEC nations raised the price through 1974, and raised it more moderately through 1978. There was much dissension, which never broke unity. More price increases were expected in 1978. The demand for oil was misperceived as almost completely unresponsive to price. OPEC decision-making was further biased by the OPEC nations' chronic financial problems as their spending rose even faster than their revenues. By 1978, Saudi Arabia was in budget and current-account deficit.
MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
Working paper (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Center for Energy Policy Research) ; MIT-CEPR 92-003.