Thursday, July 28, 2011

Venezuela: OPEC shouldn't attempt to lower prices

Venezuela's energy minister said Tuesday that OPEC shouldn't intervene to lower oil prices, which he said will come down only if military actions such as NATO airstrikes in Libya cease.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez echoed President Hugo Chavez's opposition to the strikes in Libya while announcing the financial results of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Ramirez said net earnings declined to about $3.2 billion in 2010 from $4.4 billion a year earlier. The decline came despite higher revenues.

Ramirez said current world oil prices are fair. As for concerns about instability in the oil market, he said: "Well, stop the bombings against Libya, stop the aggression against Iran."

Chavez has defended Iran's nuclear energy program as Tehran has confronted U.N. sanctions. Chavez has also condemned the involvement of U.S. and European militaries in Libya and has defended embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"The industrialized countries, the most aggressive ones, the United States, incite destabilization" in oil-producing countries, Ramirez said at a news conference.

"It's aggression against OPEC," Ramirez said.

Venezuela is traditionally a price hawk within OPEC.

"Some sectors, big consumer countries, put a great deal of pressure on our countries," Ramirez said. "They would like us to have production above what the market requires."

Meanwhile, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery rose on Tuesday above $100 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Despite long-standing tensions between Chavez and the U.S. government, the United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.

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