OPEC output to remain unchanged, diesel pushes up

| Tuesday, March 19, 2002

OPEC has announced it will hold off changing its oil production target until members meet again in June to reassess market conditions. The decision reportedly will have only a slight impact on consumers.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided Mar. 15 to leave output levels unchanged in spite of a recent surge in crude prices. The oil cartel says it is still unconvinced that an emergent economic recovery was strong enough to justify their pumping more oil before summer.

OPEC has slashed 5 million barrels from its daily output since October 2000 in an effort to prop up weak prices. The cartel cut its official production most recently by 1.5 million bpd in January, and its daily output target is now 21.7 million bpd.

As oil production targets remain unchanged, the weekly retail on-highway diesel prices released by the Energy Department Monday show the national average cost of diesel continues to escalate. The price per gallon is up 3.5 cents from last week to $1.25.

The highest prices nationally continue to be found in California. Diesel there costs $1.42 per gallon on average, up about 3 cents from a week ago. The lowest average prices are in the Gulf Coast region. Fuel there is $1.22 per gallon, up more than 3 cents from last week. The biggest jump in price from last week was in the Rocky Mountain region. Diesel there increased rose 5 cents to $1.25 per gallon.

The remaining regions' price per gallon is as follows: East Coast, $1.26; New England, $1.32; Central Atlantic, $1.34; Lower Atlantic, $1.23; Midwest, $1.23; and West Coast, $1.36, respectively.