Saturday, September 09, 2000

Relief in price of oil unlikely

By Bruce Stanley
The Associated Press

        LONDON — French truckers are blocking roads over gasoline prices. Americans fret about home heating oil costs. Asians are debating how to fight inflation stoked by costlier oil.

        Consumers in oil-importing nations are angry about high energy prices and fearful that worse is yet to come.

        But ministers for the 11 member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC are expected to provide little comfort when they meet Sunday in Vienna, Austria, to consider whether to boost their production of crude.

        Analysts predict that OPEC will raise its official output by no more than 800,000 barrels a day — just 3 percent of each member's production quota. They say such an increase would do little to rein in oil prices, which have more than tripled in the past 20 months and have risen this week to new post-Gulf War highs.

        “There's no comfort factor anywhere,” said John Toalster, an independent energy consultant in London. “It's a severe situation, no doubt about it.”

        Developing countries are finding that higher bills for imported oil are eating into funds needed for social programs and investment. Citizens of wealthier nations are feeling the pinch, too, in pricier visits to the gas station and soaring prices for heating oil.

        OPEC secretary general Rilwanu Lukman suggested Thursday that the group's members will increase production.

        “If we're satisfied the market needs more crude oil, we will put more in if we are in a position to — and we probably will,” he told the British Broadcasting Corp.


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