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The Geopolitics of Oil

It is a sad fact of life that many of the world's leading oil producing countries are either politically unstable and/or at serious odds with the U.S. Most of these countries are members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). While OPEC countries produce about 40% of the world's oil, they hold 80% of proven global reserves, and 85% of these reserves are in the Middle East.

The oil wealth of OPEC countries allows them to be the strategic pivot of world politics and economy. But their record on human rights, political stability and compliance with international law is abysmal.

--Twenty two percent of the world's oil is in the hands of state sponsors of terrorism and under U.S./UN sanctions.

--Only 9% of the world's oil is in the hands countries ranked free by Freedom House.

According to the 2002 Global Corruption Report of Transparency International, the three non-Middle East OPEC members have the highest corruption rating in the world. In a list of 102 countries Venezuela ranked 81, Indonesia 96 and Nigeria 101. Most Arab countries were not surveyed, but the report says:
"Corruption, sustained by skewed standards of living and a lack of transparent governance across the Middle East and North Africa, is a major hindrance to the region's economic development. From Yemen, with a per capita income of around US $300 a year, to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a per capita income of around US $18,000, all countries are confronted by nepotism, favoritism and profiteering."

To learn more about the holders of 80% of the world's oil, click on the names or locations of the oil producing countries listed on the map below.

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