Saudi Arabia is set to host a meeting of oil producing and consuming nations to discuss soaring oil prices.

The US and other consumers have urged producers to boost supply, blaming lack of capacity for the recent price surge. Top world supplier Saudi Arabia has made slight increases but says market speculation, not lack of supply, has driven prices to nearly $140 a barrel. Several nations have faced protests as rising fuel costs have hit industries and helped push up food prices.

Energy ministers from more than 30 countries, as well as senior executives from the world’s largest oil companies, are gathering for the conference in the Saudi city of Jeddah amid concerns that recent record oil prices are helping tip the US and other major economies towards recession. On the eve of the conference, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said rising demand, especially from developing countries like China and India, was growing faster than supply.

“Market fundamentals show us that production has not kept pace with growing demand for oil, resulting in increasing prices and increasingly volatile prices,” Mr Bodman said. Saudi Arabia and countries from Opec – the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries – resist this interpretation, blaming the soaring price, which has risen from about $10 a barrel to nearly $140 in the space of a decade, on market speculators. (Continue Reading…)

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