Oil spigot remains beyond our control

OPEC: United States is much too vulnerable to producers' predatory pricing policies.

March 30, 2000

BEGGING the world's oil-producing nations is no way to conductthe nation's energy policy. Unfortunately, the United States has painted itself into this corner and doesn't have many other short-term choices.

This time the imploring worked.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the 10-member oil producers' cartel, voted this week to increase its production by 7 percent. With the exception of Iran (which later agreed to increase its production to preserve its market share), the other OPEC countries realized that without the modest boost, they might jeopardize the current global economic recovery.

In essence, OPEC ministers voted to restore the production cuts -- about 1.45 million barrels a day -- made last year when a worldwide oil glut caused crude oil prices to fall to $11 a barrel. The production increases are expected to allow refiners to replenish depleted inventories, satisfy projected demand and stabilize prices at about $25 a barrel.

The current "crisis" isn't over. Even though the United States is more energy efficient than two decades ago, it's also more reliant on imported oil today than during the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. As a result, the economy remains far too vulnerable to OPEC's price manipulations.

A decade of low prices has lulled us into a dangerous complacency. We need renewed focus on decreasing our petroleum dependence.

This means developing more energy-efficient cars and less polluting methods for burning coal. If we fail to act, we will remain subject to OPEC's whims.

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