Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Energy Report Raises Questins of U.S. Intentions

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Energy Report Raises Questins of U.S. Intentions

Article excerpt

By Sally Jacobsen

Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium _ Feeling the pinch of plunging oil prices, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries squeezed out barely more money from crude sales last year than the year before, analysts estimate.

Only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and, to a lesser extent, Iran made memorable gains in oil earnings last year. Many saw earnings shrink by millions of dollars.

"It was a mediocre year," said Peter Bogin, associate director for oil markets at Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Paris. "It's striking how little gain there was."

The OPEC producers had only themselves to blame for sickly earnings, analysts say.

For much of the year, the nations pumped more oil than their customers needed, driving prices well below the cartel's target of $21 a 42-gallon barrel. Many Western nations, particularly the United States, were in recession, which made them less thirsty for oil.

The average price of an OPEC marker was $18.41 last year, off 25 cents from 1991.

"There was simply too much oil on the market for demand," said Bogin.

In all, he figured the value of OPEC's oil exports at $136.5 billion in 1992, about $8 billion more than in the previous year.

Petrostrategies, the Paris-based newsletter, tallied earnings of $145.3 billion last year, including crude, natural gas liquids and related products. That was $5 billion above the 1991 total.

The calculations were for 13 producers, including Ecuador, which just dropped its membership because of economic woes. The cartel's own tally won't be ready until the end of the year.

OPEC scored its best year in 1980 when earnings hit a record $284.5 billion.

Surging prices during the Gulf crisis pushed earnings to $146.4 billion in 1990, the highest since 1983.

As usual, the champion in last year's earnings race was Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude exporter. …

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