OPEC Votes To Maintain Current Oil Production Levels

The vote went ahead despite apparent disagreement among members about the strategy.

OPEC's Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri of Libya (AP Photo)
OPEC's Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri of Libya (AP Photo)

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Friday elected to maintain current oil production levels despite apparent disagreement among members about the strategy.

The group established a record high production cap of 31.5 million barrels per day, which effectively endorsed current levels that were already in excess of the previous limit.

Last year, OPEC nations accelerated production in an effort to protect its market share from fracking operations in North America.

The move helped send oil prices tumbling, but although U.S. producers cut costs and jobs, it didn't initially put a dent in the country's oil production.

OPEC believes that output from non-member states will eventually wane in light of the low crude prices, but Friday's decision is also meant to accommodate new production from cartel members.

Indonesia rejoined the group at the meeting, Iraq is increasing production at the fastest rate in the world and Iran's output will likely increase dramatically once international sanctions are lifted.

Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf have demanded cooperation from non-OPEC nations before agreeing to an output cut, but the new cap also acknowledged that the cartel isn't in a position to dictate global prices.

"We are only 35 percent of the producers and there are still 65 ... percent producers out there," said conference president Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.

Low oil prices, however, are also seriously affecting the bottom lines of OPEC governments, and not all members were on board with the production increase.

Venezuela originally hoped to reduce OPEC output by 1.5 million barrels per day, according to the Financial Times.

“We are looking for stability in the market," said Venezuelan minister Eulogio Del Pino. "We are really worried."

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