(Adds background on dollar pricing)
By Brian Ellsworth
CARACAS Nov 27 Venezuela on Tuesday called for
oil to be priced and billed in currencies other than the weak
U.S. dollar, which has eroded producer nations' purchasing
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez also blamed the United
States for record high oil prices, saying its political
pressure on some oil-producing countries had helped push crude
toward $100 a barrel.
Ramirez said in an interview with state television that
OPEC should price its oil in a basket of currencies rather than
pricing it in dollars.
Benchmark crude oil is traded in dollars on the world's top
energy exchanges, NYMEX and ICE, and traders say there is no
sign that OPEC proposals to change currencies will cause those
exchanges to shift.
Ramirez was reinforcing a position Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez promoted this month at an OPEC summit in U.S. ally
Saudi Arabia. The influential hosts objected and ensured the
proposal gained little traction among the oil cartel's
"The oil price is at $100 a barrel, but what dollar are we
talking about? It's a dollar that makes you laugh," said
Ramirez, who will stake out a hawkish stance on oil prices at
an OPEC meeting next month.
"The dollar has devalued and it is distorting the oil
market because there is a financial crisis knocking on the U.S.
door," he said.
Traders say they have seen no sign the proposal to change
currencies has led to any shift away from the dollar as a
benchmark currency for oil.
Major currencies have made gains against the dollar this
year and some economists worry a housing credit crisis could
tip the United States into recession, although many others say
its economy is robust enough to weather the problems.
Worries over tight supply for the Northern Hemisphere's
winter over the next few months have pushed prices up. But
traders also say there is a premium factored in on world
markets over a U.S. campaign to curb Iran's nuclear program.
To a much smaller extent, Venezuela's fraying ties with its
biggest customer, the United States, also reinforces worries in
"The Bush administration has put so much (political)
pressure on producers of oil and gas. What's the outcome of
this pressure? High prices," Ramirez said.
The United States says producer nations, such as OPEC
members, should increase output to ease price pressures.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Writing by Saul Hudson; editing
by Jim Marshall)