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OPEC oil ministers reject accusations of causing 'energy poverty' in West with production cut

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-10-06 21:55

VIENNA -- Energy ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Wednesday rejected accusations that they were "endangering the global energy market" and causing "energy poverty in the West" with their latest oil production cut.

OPEC and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, held its ministerial meeting on Wednesday and announced a major production cut of 2 million barrels per day (bpd) starting November as oil prices have recently tumbled over recession fears. The cut equals around 2 percent of this year's global oil demand.

While OPEC+ said its "proactive, preemptive" decision was made "in light of the uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks," US officials said President Joe Biden is "disappointed by the shortsighted decision by OPEC+" when the global economy is struggling.

In a heated exchange with Western journalists at a press conference on Wednesday following the meeting, OPEC officials and energy ministers defended the OPEC+ decision and insisted that more attention should be paid to the problem of energy poverty in underdeveloped countries in Africa, Asia and South America rather than in the West.

In response to comments from a CNBC reporter that the OPEC+ production cut would cause "energy poverty" and "social unrest" in the West, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud said the problem of energy poverty applies "first and foremost to countries that are truly suffering because of the lack of means," referring to countries in Africa and Asia, where billions of people suffer from the lack of access to energy.

He criticized the "wealth arrogance" that ignores the people who suffer most from energy poverty.

"It's like (you can't) get your Ferrari to be electrified, when the poor guy barely has to cut trees and make his food with burning woods," he said.

The Saudi minister's opinion was echoed by Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, energy minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who said that "When we talk about energy poverty, I don't think we're talking about Europe. I think we should be talking about Africa, South America, the East, and talk about people who don't have access to energy."

He attributed the current tight oil supplies to long-term under-investment in the oil sector and defended the OPEC+ production cuts by saying that higher oil prices are a mechanism to encourage more investment in the industry.

Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua, minister of hydrocarbons of the Republic of the Congo, also noted the dire situation of energy poverty in Africa, including in some African OPEC member states.

He explained that OPEC+ is slashing production to stabilize the oil market because those African countries need "revenue from oil and gas" to "address the issue of energy poverty."

He insisted that the production cut is beneficial to the people of his country, the global economy and the energy market.

He added that the position of OPEC+ is fully supported by Africa. "Not only the producing countries. All Africa fully supports the OPEC and OPEC+ position," he said.

At the press conference, OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais also defended the OPEC+ production cut, saying it aims to provide "security, stability to the energy market."

Noting that OPEC maintains its open-door approach to European policymakers, he said the organization is still "waiting for someone to knock on that door."

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