Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries

The OPEC was created in 1960 to unify and protect the interests of oil-producing countries. The organization allows oil-producing countries to guarantee their income by coordinating policies and prices among them. This unified front was created primarily in response to the efforts of Western oil companies to drive oil prices down. The original members included Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. OPEC has since expanded to include seven more countries — Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates — making a total membership of 12.

OPEC represents a considerable political and economical force. Two-thirds of the oil reserves in the world belong to its members; likewise, OPEC members are responsible for half of the world's oil exports. The fact that the organization controls the availability of a substance so universally sought after by modern society makes it a force to be reckoned with.