More than 50 years after it was created to wrest economic power from the major oil companies, the OPEC oil cartel finds itself at risk of losing its dominant role in the global oil market. The group is increasingly competing with new oil sources that are starting to chip away at its share in previously secure markets, while a shaky global economy keeps demand for oil at bay. Also troubling for OPEC as it looks to protect oil prices: One key member, long-suffering Iraq, is aiming to dramatically increase production and flex its muscles again as a major exporter.
It adds up to a nightmare scenario for the group. China, Russia and other countries are taking early steps to emulate the North American unconventional oil boom of recent years, which has the U.S. on track to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. Some key OPEC members, meanwhile, are eager to pump as much as possible to bring in badly needed revenue, rather than restrain output as part of any concerted effort to add upward pressure to prices.
1960: The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is founded by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Venezuela. The Seven Sisters of Western oil companies control global production and prices.
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