At its recent summit in Riyadh, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries faced an unprecedented crisis: the price of oil was edging up towards the $100 per barrel mark, as the dollar itself was continuing its inexorable slide on all financial markets.
Although the Saudi hosts were eager to keep the dollar’s agony out of the debate, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez forced it onto the agenda, triumphantly announcing that the dollar decline signalled the end of the American empire. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quipped that the oil producers were delivering their vital goods, and in return, were getting only “a worthless piece of paper.” The idea emerged, that OPEC should study the matter, perhaps seeking an alternative currency or currencies, in which to trade oil.
The word “dollar” was not referenced in the final document, mainly because of (justified) fears voiced by the Saudi hosts, that any such mention might precipitate a further crash of the greenback. B ut the summit did decide to set up a committee, of their oil and finance ministers, to study the matter and come up with recommendations before their next meeting, scheduled for December 5.