OPEC Leader Dies As World Grapples With Oil Crisis

OPEC Leader Dies As World Grapples With Oil Crisis

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Secretary General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo passed away on Tuesday at 63 years old.

“OPEC extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, loved ones and his home country, Nigeria,” the oil alliance said in a statement. “It is a day in which words are not enough, but it is also important to express our deep gratitude for the over 40 years of selfless service that HE Barkindo gave to OPEC. His dedication and leadership will inspire OPEC for many years and decades to come.”

Barkindo assumed the helm of OPEC in 2016 after working as the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. He played a key role in producing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, according to OPEC.

With member nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Kuwait, and Iraq, OPEC officials set oil production targets in a bid to control worldwide energy supply. The alliance accounts for over 80% of the world’s proven oil reserves, with 67% coming from Middle Eastern members.

Hours before his death, Barkindo delivered a speech at an energy summit in Abuja, Nigeria, where he remarked that the oil industry is “under siege.”

“In a very short timespan, the industry has been hit by two major cycles — the severe market downturn in 2015 and 2016, and the even more far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barkindo said, per CNN Business.

“Over the past six years, we have witnessed both challenging and historic moments, which have underscored time and again the importance of cooperation and teamwork,” Barkindo also said, adding that his time as the leader of OPEC was the “honor of a lifetime.”

The death of Barkindo occurs as international oil prices remain volatile. After surging to almost $130, the price of Brent crude has fallen to $99 as of Wednesday afternoon — roughly the same price as before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. West Texas International crude is similarly positioned at $98 — a decrease from heights of over $123 in early March.

However, analysts at investment bank JPMorgan Chase said last week that oil prices could more than triple to $380 if Russia elects to slash its output. “It is likely that the government could retaliate by cutting output as a way to inflict pain on the West,” analysts wrote. “The tightness of the global oil market is on Russia’s side.”

To combat Russian military aggression, members of the G7 are seeking to “set a global price cap for Russian oil in shipments” to countries outside of the seven nations, which include Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

“The goal here is to starve Russia — starve Putin of his main source of cash and force down the price of Russian oil to help blunt the impact of Putin’s war at the pump,” a senior Biden administration official said. “The dual objectives of G7 leaders have been to take direct aim at Putin’s revenues, particularly through energy, but also to minimize the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world.”

The national average price of gas in the United States is currently $4.78 per gallon, according to AAA, with the national average temporarily surpassing $5.00 per gallon last month.