Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, live in a state of uneasy anticipation.
Concern about climate change may mean demand for oil wanes in the coming decades. OPEC's power in oil markets is fading fast.
On November 13th the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental forecaster,
predicted that by 2030 OPEC and Russia, an ally, would pump just 47% of the world's crude. Yet OPEC has a more immediate problem at hand.
Global demand for oil has been unexpectedly anaemic this year.
Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm, estimates that it may have risen by just 0.8%, the slowest pace since the financial crisis.
OPEC and its allies, led by Russia, are due to meet in Vienna on December 5th and 6th.
The first question is whether they will announce a new plan to support the oil price. If they do, the second question is whether they will stick to it.
Technically, a plan is already in place.
In December 2018 the broadened OPEC alliance announced a cut in production of 1.2m barrels a day,
with the intention of pushing up the price of crude. That agreement has been extended to March 2020.
But several OPEC members, including Iraq and Nigeria, have frequently pumped more oil than allowed by last year's deal.
Russia was supposed to help OPEC move into a new era.
But the starting point from which it agreed to cut production was unusually high—
and output this year has exceeded its quota even so.
The country's oil industry "is really chafing under these production cuts", says Aaron Brady of IHS Markit, a data and research firm.
数据和研究公司IHS Markit的Aaron Brady表示，这个国家的石油工业“真的对减产感到恼火”。
The result is that Russia's average daily production so far in 2019, after the OPEC deal to lower output,
is higher than the average in 2018, before the deal was struck. Saudi Arabia has adjusted accordingly.
In July and August, for instance, the kingdom cut output by more than twice the amount required by last year's agreement.
But such efforts have proved insufficient to lift oil prices. On the face of it, they should have been buoyant.
American sanctions have clamped down on exports from Venezuela and Iran,
respectively the possessors of the world's largest and fourth-largest proved oil reserves. Tankers have been seized in the Gulf.
Iraq, OPEC's second-largest producer, is at risk of being engulfed by protests.
Most notably, in September a drone attack knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia's production.
The loss was more severe than that caused by the Iranian revolution in 1979 or Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.