The head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries expressed "deep concern" about rising oil prices Saturday after an informal meeting of oil ministers from the cartel but said the group had made no decision on whether to increase output, as Saudi Arabia has said it will do.
OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro of Indonesia said production levels will be discussed at an official OPEC meeting in Beirut on June 3. "Bringing order and stability to the world market is the responsibility of stakeholders in the industry," he said in a statement issued at the International Energy Forum, a three-day meeting of officials from oil-producing and consumer countries.
Purnomo also said that the current high oil prices were caused by a combination of factors, including refinery capacity, international tensions, rising global demand and heavy speculation. OPEC officials contend that such factors limit their countries' ability to influence prices by adjusting production.
Crude oil futures rose to a record $41.58 a barrel in New York on Monday, raising concern that high fuel costs will slow world economic growth. The United States, Britain and Germany have been putting pressure on OPEC to increase production in order to bring prices down.
On Friday, the Saudi oil minister, Ali Nuaimi, announced that his country would increase production to 9 million barrels a day in June, up from the current estimate of 8.5 million. The Saudis proposed raising overall OPEC production quotas to 25.5 million barrels a day from the current 23.5 million.
After Nuaimi's statement, crude oil prices fell 2.1 percent in New York on Friday, closing below $40.
"We've taken as a very positive sign the comments that have been made by the Saudis," U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Saturday in Amsterdam, where he was attending the energy forum, Bloomberg News reported. "I hope that after today, or certainly after the next couple of days, it'll be clearer whether or not we're talking about real increases in the marketplace."
As OPEC's largest producer, Saudi Arabia often leads the cartel's decisions. But its proposal to raise cartel production has met resistance from members such as Venezuela and Iran. They are already pumping at near-maximum capacity and benefiting from the high prices.
The oil minister of Iraq, Muhammed Bahr Uloum, said in a statement Saturday that an important factor in the high oil prices is speculation, fueled by concerns about the security of oil supplies. "The rise of oil prices to these levels could harm the world economy and global welfare, and it might not be the interest of any party to sustain it," Uloum said.