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In just two weeks, arguably the world's most powerful organization will meet to discuss what the future of oil production will be. But it appears the possibility of OPEC's production-setting meeting being run by one of the world's scariest people, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, will not become a reality.
It's Iran's turn in the rotation to chair the OPEC meeting in Vienna on June 8, but after a top Iranian legal authority ruled that Ahmedinejad could not take control of the country's oil ministry he said he would not attend the meeting. Whew! Instead, one of his cabinet ministers will take his place. That may put a damper on some possible excitement at the meeting but doesn't diminish its importance.
Oil prices have been softening recently, and with Iran taking the head of the table at OPEC, some have speculated that the country would push to cut production to increase oil prices. Saudi Arabia has traditionally argued that such a plan could push the global economy back into recession as consumers spend an increasing portion of their income on energy.
This is mixed news for oil producers, which don't want a repeat of 2008's falling prices because of a bad economy, but which also benefit from higher oil prices. Exploration companies like Kodiak Oil & Gas (AMEX: KOG ) and Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR ) rely on OPEC to keep oil prices relatively high to remain profitable.
Refiners may actually be the ones affected most by the OPEC decision in the short term. Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO ) , Alon USA Energy (NYSE: ALJ ) , and Western Refining (NYSE: WNR ) are benefiting from a rise in crack spreads -- the difference between gasoline prices and oil prices -- which have increased over the last year. I'm not sure America in particular could handle an increase in gasoline prices, so if oil prices rise, it may be refiners that take the brunt of it.
Foolish bottom line
When OPEC meets early next month, it has more than just an effect on oil prices -- it could affect how the world economy grows over the next few years. A reduction in production could be a boon for oil exploration companies, but it could also send our teetering economy back into a recession -- something even Iran shouldn't want any part of. That's why this is possibly the most important -- and scariest -- meeting on Earth.
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