OPEC stands pat … will $70 oil be the new normal?

The big news in the international oil markets last week was that OPEC decided not to cut production, which would have propped up free-falling prices, at least temporarily.

OPEC’s non-action sent oil prices falling further Friday, with the Brent benchmark slipping below $70 for the first time in four years.

NPR reports that some experts say oil in the range of $70 a barrel could last through 2015:

Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s Rosneft, says he thinks oil prices will average $70-75 per barrel through 2015. That prediction was in line with what Bill Hubard, chief economist at Markets.com, told Reuters: “I think $70 a barrel will be the new norm. We could see oil go considerably lower.”

Some OPEC member nations, including Iran and Venezuela, which need a higher oil price to pay for their generous public services, had been pushing for the cartel to ease back on production to halt the plunge in prices. A moderate pullback would have come amid a global oil glut, thanks in part to reduced demand in Asia and Europe, as well as soaring production in the U.S.

Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, said OPEC’s decision was no guarantee that the United States would scale back production in North Dakota and Texas, a surge aided by advances in hydraulic fracturing.

“High prices are a disadvantage to OPEC’s market share,” Zanganeh said, according to Bloomberg. “If you want to increase your share, you have to reduce prices, but you can’t do it through ‘shock therapy’ over the course of three months if you want to change everything.”

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