- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
Petrostates may be forgiven for feeling nauseous after the sharp ups and downs of oil prices in recent years. Now you can be, too.
A website called ChartCoaster.com created an animation of the global oil price over seven decades. The ride runs from 1946 to 2015 (with prices in 2014 dollars) and includes all the the peaks and dives that of this volatile market, from the oil embargo in the early 1970’s and the spike at the end of the decade, to the steady climb to record highs in 2008 and then back down again. Enjoy, and remember to keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times:
The ride gets pretty thrilling toward the end — too thrilling for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is scrambling to get the coaster inching upward again to bring some relief to oil-dependent economies.
Crude bottomed out at under $30 a barrel in 2016 — a huge change from prices around $115 in the summer of 2014 — and now hovers around $50 a barrel. That’s bad news for national budgets, like Iran’s, Iraq’s, Russia’s, and Venezuela’s, that rely on oil revenues.
This weekend, OPEC officials met to urge member countries to cut production to comply with an agreement struck late last year, when OPEC and non-OPEC states decided to cut their output by 1.8 million barrels a day to shore up pricesl. As usual, though, the cartel is having trouble getting everybody to comply.
Iraq and the United Arab Emirates fell short on their pledges to cut, while Saudi Arabia may have actually increased its production in January and February (though OPEC praised it for “over-performing”). Russia — a non-OPEC member — appeared to only cut production by only one third of what it agreed to initially. Meanwhile, U.S. producers are no help: They’ve learned to thrive with lower prices, and U.S. oil production is creeping back higher after a rough few months.
Now OPEC is angling to extend the production cuts by six months. “More has to be done,” said Kuwaiti Oil Minister Issam A. Almarzooq, chair of the organization’s compliance committee, Sunday. “We need to see conformity across the board. We assured ourselves — and the world — that we would,” he said.
But with oil inventories still bulging, questions growing about the world’s real demand for crude, and no sign big OPEC producers are willing to shoulder big production cuts themselves, the roller coaster may not be headed skyward anytime soon.
Photo credit: MaxPixel/CC0 Public Domain