US 'carefully' monitoring oil markets in wake of Venezuela oil strike

US officials Friday refused to speculate on whether renewed political unrest in Venezuela will mean higher gasoline and heating costs for consumers.

By OGJ editors

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 9 -- US officials Friday refused to speculate on whether renewed political unrest in Venezuela will mean higher gasoline and heating costs for consumers.

The state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) last week declared force majeure because of an oil worker strike that has caused a dramatic 25% drop in production and a 50% slide in exports. About 60% of Venezuela's exports, some 1.5 million b/d, go to the US. That represents 13% of total US imports of crude oil and refined products.

"We monitor potential disruptions to US and global energy markets, so we're following these developments closely. At this point, I don't think I can speculate on what the effect in the markets may or may not be," a US State Department spokesman said Friday. "Obviously, we think that we need to keep working hard on the underlying political difficulties and look for a peaceful resolution that corresponds to the electoral requirements there."

US officials added that it was "too early to say" whether a sustained strike would impact US retail prices.

The US comments come as the world's largest oil exporters, under the auspices of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, are scheduled to meet this week in Vienna to consider supply adjustments to their quota system.

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