OPEC'S Decade: Has It Made a Difference?


  • Michael Tanzer
  • Stephen Zorn






No one can deny that the past ten years have witnessed great changes in the international oil industry. A decade ago, the seven largest international oil companies—Exxon, Shell, British Petroleum, Texaco, Standard Oil of California, Mobil, and Gulf—still dominated the industry in virtually every respect. In 1972, these seven companies accounted for three fifths of the noncommunist world's production of crude oil and refined products, and similar shares of transport and marketing as well. Even these figures fail to reflect the relative profitability of these "seven sisters." They controlled only one third of oil production in the United States, where costs were relatively high and profits correspondingly lower. By contrast, they controlled 88 percent of production in the low-cost, high-profit areas such as the Middle East and Latin America. Among these seven major companies, there were sizable disparities. Exxon, for example, had crude oil production that was nearly three times as large as Mobil's. Taken together, though, the seven big companies probably earned close to three fourths of all oil industry profits.

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