OPEC can do nothing about the high price of oil because factors other than crude supply have sent the market to near record levels, Qatar's Energy Minister said on Wednesday.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, supplier of more than a third of the world's oil, was ready to boost supply if the market needed it, Abdullah al-Attiyah told reporters.
OPEC cannot do anything about it, Attiyah said. The world is facing a shortage of gasoline and diesel, but not crude oil. If the market needs more oil, OPEC will do its utmost but it needs to be convinced that there is a shortage.
London Brent crude hit an 11-month high at $76.63 a barrel on Tuesday, just over $2 below its record of $78.65 in August last year.
Aside from a shortage of oil products, Attiyah blamed the high price on speculation and international political tension.
His comments were in line with those of other OPEC ministers, who have maintained that crude supplies are plentiful despite pressure from consuming countries to boost output. OPEC is next due to meet to discuss output policy in September.
The International Energy Agency, adviser to 26 industrialized countries, has for months called on the group to raise output.
But Attiyah pointed to high crude stocks in the world's number one consumer the United States, where government data last week pegged stocks at a nine-year high. In contrast, gasoline stocks were below normal levels for this time of year.
The IEA issued a report on Monday saying that world oil demand will rise faster than expected to 2012 while production lags, leading to a supply crunch and lower OPEC spare capacity.
Attiyah said OPEC's supply cushion may drop in the future but that the group was investing billions to increase capacity, despite rising costs to hire rigs and build new facilities.