The cartel could have either left production unchanged and prices relatively low, thereby contributing to helping the global economic situation from getting worse or perhaps even rebounding; or it could have continued efforts to force prices higher and risk causing an even greater and longer-lasting recession.

As oil is the main source of revenue for most OPEC members, in several countries current prices are devastating national budgets and are likely to cause political instability if they continue at present levels (or lower) much longer. Oil prices are, of course, only one of many factors that will determine the course of the global economy. Whether or not an economic rebound will occur in the foreseeable future and whether or not another $20 or $30 a barrel higher oil prices will have any measurable effect on slowing any rebound is unknown.

What is known, however, is that current oil prices are choking off much new exploration and drilling for oil. Should this situation continue for the next year or two, the oil industry’s capability to keep ahead of depletion from existing fields will be seriously harmed.

Whenever oil prices return to the $100-$150 levels seen last year, either through deliberate production cuts or inability to produce sufficient oil to meet demand, it is almost certain that economic growth will be seriously harmed.