Consumers: Common Interests
A fter the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was formed at Baghdad in Autumn, 1960, the question was often asked whether it would be matched by an Organization of Petroleum Importing Countries. The possibility does in fact appear soon to have been discussed, seriously or not, in some of the deliberations of consumer governments in Western Europe. For the time, no rival firm was in fact set up; it might have appeared deliberately obstructive. Many people in the West believed that OPEC could have a useful role to play, and should be given every chance to establish itself. But even without an OPIC, it might perhaps be said that there were sufficient organizations of oil consumer governments already -- as the board of OPEC perhaps realized in locating its headquarters in Geneva. The international or supra-national organization is no stranger to the problems of energy -- including oils -- in Western Europe at least, though oil until recently remained more detached from the central interest and influence of such organizations than any other fuel.
From the end of the war onwards, and particularly during the rebuilding of the West European economy with large scale aid from the United States, the governments of the region engaged in fairly continuous consultation upon their common economic interests, at a variety of levels. At the beginning of the period they were engaged fairly seriously in the 'rationing' of energy. Actual rationing was never carried out on any international scale -- except, as it happens, for the semi-formal rationing of oil supplies during two periods of emergency when first oil supplies from Iran and later supplies through the Suez Canal were cut off. But during the early years there was consultation over, for example, the amounts of coal exports that producers could make available to meet the total demands that the coal-importing countries set out. And a good deal of discussion went on over 'the dollar element' in imported oil and in the operations of American oil