Vail Symposium looks at OPEC and the oil economy |

Vail Symposium looks at OPEC and the oil economy

Daily staff report
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL Colorado ” Vail Symposium’s Active Minds Program looks at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from its formation in 1960 to the present day. Tonight’s program will be taught by Active Minds instructor John Dunlavy at the Golden Eagle Community Center in Eagle at 5:30 p.m. Like all Active Minds presentations, the event is free, but donations are encouraged.

Going to the gas pump over the past nine months has made our hearts race or plummet as prices have fluctuated wildly from a high of $150 a barrel to the current $50 a barrel.

“The Symposium feels it is important to shed light on the history and background of this subject that touches us all,” said Vail Symposium’s Executive Director Carrie Marsh.

Generally, we assume oil prices are dictated OPEC, but even as oil prices have shifted, so has the story of OPEC.

OPEC was formed in 1960 from the desire of mostly former colonial holdings to use their natural resources as a means to step onto the world economic stage, explained John Henderson, co-founder of Active Minds. The original members of the cartel consisted of 12 countries: Venezuela, Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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The cartel first demonstrated their power in 1973 by enforcing a five-month oil embargo on western countries that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War against Egypt and Syria. Oil prices increased four-fold in that time. However, OPEC’s earlier might has been tempered by the discovery of large oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, the opening up of Russia, and market modernization.

Today, OPEC nations account for two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves and 35.6 percent of the world’s oil production. Russia is the largest oil-producer outside of OPEC. Since 1980, there has been a six-year decline in oil prices, including a 46-percent drop in 1986. The Gulf War and the current economic crisis have also weakened unity among OPEC nations.

Because of the 1973 oil embargo, many were quick to blame OPEC for the recent instability of oil prices. However, according to Henderson, analysts have said that up to 60 percent of the price spike was actually attributable not to supply and demand, but to market speculation. And, oil prices have been affected more by the reduction in demand rather than reducing the supply. In light of the current economic crisis, OPEC nations are in peril.

“The key points for the future of the oil economy are the relationship between Russia and OPEC, who share mutual interests,” Henderson said. “We will also look at the future of U.S. oil independence and the economics of alternative fuels.”

As a part of the Vail Symposium’s mission to offer affordable educational opportunities in the Vail Valley, Active Minds courses have been offered since the summer of 2006. The program is designed to introduce impartial understanding of historical, timely, and sometimes controversial subjects. The Symposium partners with Denver-based Active Minds for Seniors and Eagle County to produce these programs.

What: Vail Symposium’s Active Minds Series continues with a presentation on OPEC and the Oil Economy

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Golden Eagle Community Center in Eagle

Cost: Free

More information: Call 970-476-0954 or visit

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