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Imperfect Cartelization in OPEC

date Date: December 9, 2015
date Author(s): Samuel J. Okulloa , Frédéric Reynèsb
date Affiliation: Tilburg University - VU University Amsterdam
Abstract

A model of global oil production is applied to study cartelization by OPEC countries. Writing out the shadow price on quota allocations so as to draw correspondence to coefficients of cooperation (Cyert et al. 1973), we examine the incentives for different OPEC members to collude. We find that heterogeneity in OPEC and the supplies of the non-OPEC fringe create strong incentives against OPEC cooperation. OPEC’s optimal supply strategy although observed to be substantially more restrictive than that of a Cournot-Nash oligopoly, is found to still be more accommodative than that of a perfect cartel. The strategy involves allocating larger than proportionate quotas to smaller and relatively costlier producers as if to bribe their participation in the cartel, contrary to predictions of the standard cartel model that such producers should be allocated relatively more stringent quotas. Furthermore, we find that cartel collusion is likely to be sustained for elastic than inelastic demand. Since global oil demand is well known to be inelastic, this observation provides another structural explanation for why OPEC behavior is inconsistent with that of a perfect cartel. Our study points to multiple headwinds that limit OPECs ability to raise long-run global oil prices.

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