RIYADH (Reuters) -Global oil consumers and producers discussed on Saturday calls for greater transparency in oil markets and investment in production capacity to curb prices which hit record levels this year.
Ministers and officials from the energy-hungry United States, China, India and the European Union held talks behind closed doors with oil giant Saudi Arabia and other major OPEC exporters in the Saudi capital.
Saudi Arabia”s King Abdullah said his country, which is under pressure from consumer nations to raise output capacity to cool oil prices, is committed to meeting customers” needs.
"Our policy is based on two main foundations. The first is realizing a reasonable and fair price for oil and the second to provide adequate supplies of oil to all consumers," Abdullah said after inaugurating the International Energy Forum, which aims to foster greater oil market transparency.
He said consumer nations must also play their part by lowering taxes on refined petroleum products and taking a stand against oil market speculation, which Saudi officials often blame for volatile prices.
Oil minister Ali al-Naimi said Saudi Arabia is producing 9.5 million barrels per day and meeting market demand for its crude.
U.S. oil prices hit a record $70 a barrel in late August, prompting warnings they would hurt global economic growth, before easing to $56 on Friday.
A study released by the U.S. Congress”s Joint Economic Committee said this week that OPEC producers — of which Saudi Arabia is the biggest — have kept their production levels down and pushed up crude prices.
But producers blame a lack of global refining capacity for the spike. They have offered an extra 2 million barrels per day (bpd) and say they have had no takers.
Finance ministers from France and Britain, who have both pressed OPEC to pump as much as possible and improve "visibility and predictability" on oil markets, attended Saturday”s talks.
To mark its formal inauguration the International Energy Forum unveiled a database of information provided by the world”s main oil producing and consuming nations.
"The initiative will help … in contributing to global oil market stability," Naimi said. "The absence of accurate and clear information is one of the biggest problems facing the markets and the petroleum industry — especially in vital subjects such as supply, demand, production and stockpiles."
U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, who was attending the Riyadh talks, also said that increased knowledge about supply and consumption levels would help stabilize markets.
But some analysts question whether talks between the world”s oil sellers and buyers will lead to any tangible results.
"The producer-consumer dialogue looks great on paper. It”s a great concept. But it”s almost impossible to translate … into action," said Robert Ebel, energy program chairman at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Saudi Arabia plans to spend billions of dollars boosting output capacity by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to 12.5 million bpd by 2009, and later to 15 million bpd.
Asked if those plans were still on track despite a global shortage of oil drilling equipment and manpower, Naimi replied: "Absolutely."