Crude Oil at $100: OPEC Has Grown Accustomed to the Price

Last Updated Jan 12, 2010 1:42 PM EST

Crude prices would have to rise more than 22 percent before OPEC's member countries would consider changing its production quotas, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report. Meaning, $100 a barrel is A-OK with the oil cartel.

Here's what Kuwait's Supreme Petroleum Council member Imad Al Atiqi said in an interview with Zawya-Dow Jones on Tuesday:

OPEC will not consider it an alarming event if oil hits $100 as we have become accustomed to oil at $100 a barrel.

We (OPEC will see when it reaches the $100 mark and how long it will take to break resistance, and go even further before acting.

OPEC's next meeting is scheduled for March 17 in Vienna. It would be there, OPEC's member countries, which includes Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, could alter its current oil output. Last month, OPEC decided to keep crude-oil production the same -- the fourth consecutive time the group left its target unchanged. OPEC agreed in 2008 to to cut 4.2 million barrels a day from its 29.045 million barrels per day. the cuts went into effect in January 2009.

The key takeaway here, in my mind, is that OPEC has become "accustomed to" oil at $100. The oil cartel clearly has more than high hopes for crude prices.

If demand does not recover, as hoped, OPEC will likely take greater steps to rein in its compliance rates among its member countries, which had sunk as low as 58 percent, according to the International Energy Administration. As I mentioned before, non-OPEC countries and Iraq are the X factors here. The country, also an OPEC member, is not subject to quotas. As Iraq steps up efforts to revive its oil industry -- with the help from foreign energy producers -- its status could change. And as Gregor noted in a post Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest data shows non-OPEC crude oil production spiked 500,000 barrels(kbpd) to 42.109 million barrels per day. This is the first time since spring 2007 non-OPEC's production levels for a single month rose at or above the 42 mbpd mark, Gregor notes. Surprisingly, Russia was not the culprit here, but production increases in the North Sea and Canada.