While this pact was originally kept secret and there
was no official confirmation that such a group existed, a move by Esso
and other oil companies to reduce the posted price for Middle East
crudes prompted Perez Alfonso of Venezuela and Abdullah Tariki - both
influential in the meetings of 1959 - to convene meetings in Baghdad
which resulted in the creation of OPEC. 3
Early members were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela with
Qatar, Indonesia, Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, United Arab
Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, and Gabon joining later (Gabon left in 1994/1995 and Indonesia left in 2009). Its goal
is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries.
However, there are large producers who are not members of OPEC, notably
Russia, Norway, Mexico, and the United States.
early years of OPEC - as with many newly formed groups - were
difficult. The organization spent its early years consolidating its
position with the major oil companies. However, this caused OPEC to
lose some control. Starting in the early 1970's, OPEC influence grew.
The first few years of the 1970's saw so much instability in the oil
industry as a whole that no player was left unaffected. Then came the
oil crisis of 1973, which marked a turning point for the oil industry
and OPEC in particular. The crisis was sparked by the announcement in
October, that the Arab members of OPEC would not ship oil to countries
that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Because OPEC countries
have about 2/3 of the world's oil reserves and hold about 40% of the
world's oil production and half of the exports, the announcement by the
Arab OPEC members was an enormous blow to the industry and the world
economy as a whole.
OPEC technically doesn't set oil
prices, but because the OPEC countries produce about 40% of the world's
oil supply and their exports account for about 55% of the total export
in oil, their decisions do play a part in prices.
The purpose of OPEC is to agree on the quantity and
price of the oil their countries export. They state their primary
To coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its Member Countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.
The members meet twice a year (usually March and September) at the
OPEC Conference to co-ordinate and unify their petroleum policies and
consider the current situation and forecasts of economic growth rates
and petroleum demand and supply scenarios. Delegates are normally the
Ministers of Oil, Mines and Energy of Member Countries.
The Conference is the supreme authority of the Organization.
However, there are three main organizational units which oversee the
operations of the organization:
OPEC Secretariat - This group functions as the
Headquarters of OPEC. It is responsible for carrying out the executive
functions of the Organization. It consists of the Secretary General and
the Research Division, headed by the Director of Research, who oversees
the Petroleum Market Analysis, Energy Studies, and Data Services
Board of Governors - The Board is composed of
Governors nominated by Member Countries and confirmed by the Conference
for two years. The Board directs the management of the Organization,
implements Resolutions of the Conference; draws up the Organization's
annual budget, and submits it to the Conference for approval.
Research Division - is a specialized research oriented body operating within the framework of the Secretariat. It consists of three Departments, namely, Data Services, Energy Studies and Petroleum Studies.
Much about the actual operations and decision making process of
OPEC is unknown. The organization is quite secretive about itself so
there is not much written about its internal workings. This secrecy has
often lead to misunderstandings or conspiracy theories, which are
prevalent in some books and articles written on OPEC.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is one of the larger
organizations involved in the oil and gas industry. The IEA is the
energy forum for 26 industrialized countries. Formed by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as an
autonomous intergovernmental entity within the OECD in 1974 in direct
response to the oil crisis, its members include: Australia, Austria,
Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg,
The Netherlands New Zealand, Norway, (participates under a special
Agreement), Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United
Kingdom, and the United States. One of the overall objectives of the IEA,
which reflects the original reason for the group's establishment, is to
seek ways to reduce the members' vulnerability to a supply disruption.
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) was
established in 1968 and is based in Kuwait. Membership is limited to
petroleum producing Arab countries. The three founding members were
Kuwait, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. The OAPEC is not a cartel in the same
sense as OPEC. OAPEC is devoted to developmental activities and
increasing the cooperation among its members.
Back to Top
Evans, John. OPEC and the World Energy Market: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. 2nd edition, fully revised by Gavin Brown. Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex, U.K.: Longman, 1993. 749 p.
LC Call Number: HD9560.1.O66 E92 1993
LC Catalog Record: 93139571
This is a specific look at OPEC and OPEC countries, it
also spends much time on an overview of world oil and gas. While, much
of the data is specific to a certain time frame, there is a look at the
time period of 1960-1990 as well as historical statistics of world oil
The International Petroleum Cartel. Staff Report
to [i.e. of] the Federal Trade Commission Submitted to the Subcommittee on
Monopoly of the Select Committee on Small Business, United States Senate. Washington,
U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1952. 378 p.
LC Call Number: HD9560.5 .U63 1952
LC Catalog Record: 52061818
Chapter 1, pp. 5-20
Chapter 2, pp. 21-36
Chapter 3, pp. 37-46
Chapter 4, pp. 47-84
Chapter 4, pp. 84-112
Chapter 5, pp. 113-136
Chapter 6, pp. 137-162
Information on the early control of the petroleum industry.
Specific topics include: general information of the resources, reserves, concentration
and control, specific information on the Iraq Petroleum Company, other areas
in the Middle East and the oil companies that dominate, Venezuela petroleum
industry, production and marketing agreements, etc. Also, includes fold out
flowcharts and graphs.
Sampson, Anthony. The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped. New York: Bantam Books, c1991. 414 p.
LC Call Number: HD9560.5 .S24 1991
LC Catalog Record: 91159189
Table of Contents and Selected Text
This is a history of those companies that make up what is
known as the Seven Sisters and includes a chapter on OPEC and other
seminal events in the history of the oil and gas industry.
Scott, Richard. The History of the International Energy Agency, 1974-1994: IEA, the First 20 Years. Paris: OECD/IEA, c1994. 3 v.
LC Call Number: HD9502.A2 S424 1994
LC Catalog Record: 94182424
[PDF: 1.25 MB / 428 p.]
[PDF: 1.23 MB / 396 p.]
[PDF: 1.56 MB / 544 p.]
Volume 4, 2004 supplement to Volumes 1-3
[PDF: 1.60 MB / 353 p.]
Skeet, Ian. Twenty-Five Years of Prices and Politics. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. 263 p.
LC Call Number: HD9560.1.O66 S57 1988
LC Catalog Record: 88004354
Historical look at the creation and development of OPEC.
Appendices include: OPEC organization, member countries, production and
revenue statistics of OPEC countries from 1960-1986, oil consumption
statistics from 1960-1986, and resolutions of the 1st OPEC conference
Tarbell, Ida M., and Chalmers, David Mark.The History
of the Standard Oil Company. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003.
LC Call Number: HD9569.S8 T37 2003
LC Catalog Record: 2002034979
The 2003 reprint of the briefer version of a book that was
originally serialized by McClure's Magazine from 1902 to 1904, recounts
the history of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company, the first
major industrial monopoly in the US. The story, which became a model
for investigative journalists, explores corporate abuses perpetrated by
the company. This is an unabridged re-publication of the Harper
Torchbook edition originally published by Harper & Row, Publishers,
Incorporated, New York, 1966. Annotation by Book News, Inc.
Tugendhat, Christopher. Oil: The Biggest Business. London: Eyre Methuen, 1975. 404 p.
LC Call Number: HD9560.5 .T8 1975
LC Catalog Record: 75308198
A relatively early history of OPEC that also includes are
a number of chapters on the oil and gas industry between the years
Back to Top
Documents on the International Energy System. Mount Holyoke College.
Many documents of a historical nature are included, including Chapters 1 through 6 of The International Petroleum Cartel (Staff Report to [i.e. of] the Federal Trade Commission).
International Energy Agency.
Includes the Monthly Oil Survey, Monthly Energy Price Survey, the Energy Information Center, and energy statistics.
Ministry of Energy (Oil). Kuwait. Ministry of Energy.
Linked from this departmental home page is a quarterly magazine, Al-Naft Magazine, and a Fact & Figures area.
Oil and Commodity Cartels. (Jeffrey Hart, University of Indiana).
A selected bibliography of sources on the cartels from The Politics of International Economic Relations,
6th ed., by Joan Spero and Jeffrey Hart, (Belmont, CA : Thomson/Wadsworth, c2003).
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC).
The web site contains Annual Reports, the OAPEC Monthly Bulletin, as well as other useful publications and statistics.
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Publications available on this site include the Oil Market Report, OPEC Bulletin, Oil Outlook, and the Annual Statistical Bulletin as well as speeches, press releases, and other data and graphs.
U.S. Dept. of Energy. Energy Information Administration (EIA): OPEC.
These EIA webpages provide an overview and country analysis [PDF format/ 34.5KB 4 p.], revenue fact sheet, production capacity, and production statistics on an annual and monthly basis for OPEC countries. EIA also provides information on the latest oil prices as well as international petroleum imports and exports.
Back to Top
Additional works in the Library of Congress on the oil cartels and organizations may be identified by searching the Online Catalog
under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the
topics you wish to search from the following list of Library of
Congress subject headings to link directly to the Catalog and
automatically execute a search for the subject selected. Please be
aware that during periods of heavy use you may encounter delays in
accessing the catalog. Please see the individual sections of this guide
for catalog searches relating to those specific topics. For assistance
in locating the many other subject headings which relate to this
subject, please consult a reference librarian.
1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed.,
2.Skeet, Ian. OPEC: Twenty Five Years of Prices and Politics. (Cambridge: New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 5.
3. Ibid., pp. 15-17.
4. OPEC web site
Last Updated: 07/16/2013
To view PDFs