It’s been around for 60 years. It’s one of the world’s most influential nongovernmental institutions. And it affects billions of people, in one way or another. But much about OPEC — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — is (forgive the pun) opaque. Or at least it’s poorly understood. And so this seemed a good candidate for Grid’s regular “No Dumb Questions” series: “What is OPEC?”
For one thing, it’s a six-decade-old organization, founded by a handful of major oil producers who felt that too much of the power and influence in the oil sector rested with big oil companies. A founding principle of OPEC was that the nations that sit atop great reserves of petroleum should have control over how much is brought up from the ground and shared in the global market. The group also said then — and still maintains — that it exists to ensure stability in the market for one of the world’s most important commodities.
As Grid’s Global Editor Tom Nagorski notes, that’s not a universal view. As OPEC has grown and its influence has increased, many nations outside OPEC have been critical of the group, calling OPEC a “cartel,” and suggesting its members care more about power and profit than market stability. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is only the latest on a long list of U.S. presidents to plead with OPEC leaders to boost production to bring down the price of gas. Biden went to Saudi Arabia last year to do just that; it didn’t work.
One more reminder that “What is OPEC?” is hardly a dumb question — and the answers are complicated.
More “No Dumb Questions” videos:
We’d love to hear from you with other ideas for the series. We like to think that there’s almost nothing in the world of news and information that couldn’t use a little more clarity and context in terms of the answers. Send your ideas and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.