Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Monday that he will ask OPEC to set the long term price for a barrel of oil at $50 USD, a price nearly $16 below current levels.


The comments were made on BBCs Newsnight program and come ahead of this Junes OPEC meeting in Venezuela.

Were trying to find an equilibrium, Chavez said. The price of oil could remain at the low level of $50. Thats a fair price. Its not a high price.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Venezuela has 77.2 billion barrels of proven conventional oil reserves and, including heavy petroleum, may have as many as 270 billion total barrels. Venezuela's reserves would barely surpass Saudi Arabia's 261.9 billion barrels to be the largest in the world.

In the interview, Chavez also expressed confidence in the ability of his nation to keep producing oil for the long term.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, he said. In the future Venezuela wont have any more oil – but thats in the 22nd century. Venezuela has oil for 200 years.

Chavez's comments come as the price of gasoline nears historic highs, and heavy crude is becoming commercially viable to pump. Heavy crude consists of longer hydro-carbon molecules than light crude, and costs more money to refine. Chavez's suggestion of a $50 price point probably takes into consideration today's cost of refine heavy crude at $40 per barrel.

Chavez declared in Mondays interview that he will ask OPEC to formally recognize Venezuela's oil reserves including heavy crude. If OPEC agrees, Venezuela could increase its oil output.

According to OPEC, Iran is the second leading producer of crude with Venezuela close behind as the third largest producer.