Chart of the Day: Oil Prices Are Plunging Thanks to OPEC


OPEC finished up its winter meeting yesterday and decided not to cut oil production. This came as a surprise to those who still think of OPEC as the maniacal oil hawks who roiled global petroleum markets in the 70s, but less so to those who know that cartels are notoriously difficult to hold together—especially when it’s a leaky cartel that’s missing some key producers. In any case, OPEC members couldn’t agree on just who would pay the price of cutting production, and the Saudis, for reasons still unclear, were unwilling to shoulder the burden themselves this time around. So OPEC oil production will remain unchanged.

The result? After six months of declining oil prices, we suddenly got plunging oil prices. Why? Not so much because of the shale oil revolution in the US. For all the attention it gets, fracking has increased global oil production by only a few percent and would normally have only a moderate effect on prices. Unfortunately, these aren’t normal times: in addition to a small increase in the oil supply, the global economic slowdown has depressed demand. That’s a bigger factor than fracking, and with European and Asian economies looking increasingly fragile, not one that seems likely to be corrected anytime soon.

How low will oil go? No one knows. When will it turn up again? Probably not until the global economy starts to grow at a decent pace. And no one knows when that will happen either.

For more, check out Brad Plumer, who has a much more detailed explanation of the both the politics and the economics of the oil scene here.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.