The world’s most prominent oil cartel, OPEC, has banished several of the largest names in the western media sphere from attending its June policy meeting to be held in person in Vienna during the weekend of June 4.
Based on information “according to people familiar with the matter,” Financial Times made the announcement on May 31 that Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters had been “barred” and “denied invitations” to the meeting.
Although the OPEC website states that, “Journalists and oil industry analysts are welcome to attend these events, provided that they register in advance,” the comment is in reference to major meetings and the only one on the schedule is 8th International Seminar to be held at the Vienna headquarters in July.
Despite FT being given the information, it states that “no reason has been given for excluding the media groups,” adding that OPEC, Saudi Arabia, and its rival outlets did not respond to request for comment.
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“The FT has received an invitation as have a number of specialist trade publications,” the publication was pleased to add.
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The timing is curious as on May 3, Reuters reported that four “sources familiar with the matter” told the outlet the June meeting would convene in person instead of online in spite of the next meeting being scheduled for July.
Although the competing outlets would not comment for the FT piece, Reuters did publish an article on the topic stating that “OPEC has not invited Reuters or Bloomberg news agencies” to attend the meeting.
An article published by Bloomberg confirmed it was also given the cold shoulder, stating, “No reason was given for the decision, for which there is little precedent in OPEC’s history,” followed by a video thumbnail with a chart subtitled “Oil Posts Worst Month Since 2021.”
Reuters stated the same fate had applied to both Bloomberg and WSJ reporters, yet Argus, Platt, and CNBC had been granted a document that stated, “Please note that this invitation is exclusive to the recipient.”
The Wall Street Journal appears to have not published an article on the affair, but did publish an article one day prior titled U.S. Crude Dips Below $70 Ahead of OPEC+ Meeting, which claimed that, “Tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia over Moscow’s huge oil exports have marked the runup to the meeting.”
Although the exact reason for the snub has not been made official, FT stated that Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman ordered the charge, noting something of a butting of heads between the Saudis and the Joe Biden administration who want the price of oil to drop after selling the majority of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
CNBC reported on May 23 that Abdulaziz had warned the entities trying to short the crude oil markets that, “Speculators, like in any market, there are there to stay. I keep advising that they will be ouching. They did ouch in April. I don’t have to show my cards, I’m not [a] poker player (…) but I would just tell them, watch out” during comments at the Qatar Economic Forum (QEF).
West Texas Intermediate crude futures posted a high of the year in April of $83.53 before falling rapidly to close the month under $75.
May was an unpleasant month for crude with a sudden 17 percent drop over the course of the first three trading days that saw the crucial commodity print a low of the year at $63.64.
Volatility emerged after OPEC+ announced production cuts at the beginning of April that were immediately met with criticism by the current U.S. government.
CNBC gave Prince Abdulaziz a platform, extensively quoting his comments at the QEF where he stated, “We were, as OPEC+, blamed in October, blamed in April. Who has the right numbers? Who gauged the situation in a much more, I would say, responsible way, but attentive way?”
“Look at where we are now: energy security is being shackled, running out of capacities because countries are not investing both in oil and gas,” the Prince lamented.
He warned, “We have a very funny trajectory of where demand will be. So if you are a hedger, as we are, we’ll have to take action to preempt any possibility of further volatility … but we are forthrightly accepting the challenge, and we will continue attending to the challenge.”
Reuters stated in a May 30 Reuters article Why Is Opec+ Cutting Oil Output?, that a note to clients by Standard Chartered bank had warned that “short speculative positions in crude oil earlier this month were as bearish as they were at the start of the pandemic in 2020 – when oil demand and prices collapsed.”
In April of 2020 during the peak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 hysteria, WTI crude fell to literally $0.00, an unprecedented event for any major commodity. It then spent the next 6 months trading between $19 and $44.
On April 27, Bloomberg energy reporter Javier Blas published a press release on Twitter issued by OPEC in response to the International Energy Association, titled “IEA should be very careful about further undermining oil industry investments.”
OPEC Secretary General Haitham Al Ghais stated in the release, which no longer appears on the organization’s website, “If anything will lead to volatility it’s the IEA’s repeated calls to stop investing in oil.”
Al Ghais warned that oil is needed “to fuel global economic growth and prosperity…especially in the developing world.”
The message may have been conveyed as on May 17, the IEA stated in its monthly industry report that, “The ongoing pressure in oil prices neglects an accelerating demand outlook and looming supply tightness,” CNBC summarized.
According to the Agency, mainland China is speculated to account for 60 percent of global consumption this year, noting that the IEA also added that India and the Middle East have printed record consumption in the first months of 2023.
On May 25, Blas cited Russia’s OPEC official Alexander Novak as stating that in regards to the coming meeting, “I do not think that there will be any new steps, because just a month ago, certain decisions were made regarding the voluntary reduction of oil production,” based on comments given to a Russian media outlet.
WTI crude prices fell almost 5 percent the same day.