From Sardar Shahab
LONDON: OPEC+ agreed steep oil production cuts on Wednesday, curbing supply in an already tight market, causing one of its biggest clashes with the West as the U.S. administration called the surprise decision shortsighted.
OPEC’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia said the cut of 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of output – equal to 2% of global supply – was necessary to respond to rising interest rates in the West and a weaker global economy.
The kingdom rebuffed criticism it was colluding with Russia, which is included in the OPEC+ group, to drive prices higher and said the West was often driven by “wealth arrogance” when criticising the group.
The White House said President Joe Biden would continue to assess whether to release further strategic oil stocks to lower prices.
“The President is disappointed by the shortsighted decision by OPEC+ to cut production quotas while the global economy is dealing with the continued negative impact of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said.
Biden faces low approval ratings ahead of mid-term elections due to soaring inflation and has called on Saudi Arabia, a long-term U.S. ally, to help lower prices.
U.S. officials have said part of the reason Washington wants lower oil prices is to deprive Moscow of oil revenue. Biden travelled to Riyadh this year but failed to secure any firm cooperation commitments on energy. Relations have been further strained as Saudi Arabia has not condemned Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
The cut in oil supplies decided in Vienna on Wednesday could spur a recovery in oil prices that have dropped to about $90 from $120 three months ago on fears of a global economic recession, rising U.S. interest rates and a stronger dollar.
Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said OPEC+ had needed to be pro-active as central banks around the world moved to “belatedly” tackle soaring inflation with higher interest rates.