Tom Hudson: As we squabble over wishbone, OPEC to argue over oil issues

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection on resources and relatives, even for one group of a dozen countries without the holiday in the week ahead.

The free fall in oil prices has led to billions of dollars staying in consumers’ pockets instead of pumped into their gas tanks just as the holiday spending season gets under way. Since June, oil prices have fallen 30 percent. While OPEC nations aren’t about to cry poverty the cartel will be working in the new week to stop the drop.

The global benchmark price of crude oil has been falling for several reasons. First, supply. Fracking has led to an energy renaissance in the United States. Russian oil production is near its highest level since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Second, demand. All this petroleum is coming out of the ground as the Japanese economy is in recession, China’s economic boom has quieted and Europe’s economy remains troubled. Also more fuel-efficient cars and trucks mean fewer fill-ups.

OPEC oil ministers meet on Thursday, but not for a Thanksgiving feast. Instead, the powers that control almost 40 percent of world oil production will argue over how much oil they are pumping and whether they should pump less of it. But like many extended family gatherings for the holiday, there will be plenty of tension.

Saudi Arabia is responsible for almost a third of OPEC oil production. It isn’t about to cut back significantly on oil production only to see another OPEC member grow its share. Meanwhile, Venezuela, with its economy in shambles, needs all the energy revenues it can get.

Thursday’s OPEC meeting holds the potential of all the stress of a traditional family Thanksgiving gathering.

Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts The Sunshine Economy on WLRN-FM in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.