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Oil pump jacks in Tatarstan, Russia. Photo: Yegor Aleyev/TASS via Getty Images

Russian energy chief Alexander Novak said it’s unlikely Russia and OPEC will create a formal, institutional structure for their ongoing crude oil supply management efforts, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Novak’s comments signal headwinds facing discussions of formalizing the 2-year-old “OPEC+” initiative between the cartel and allied producers, notably Russia, that jointly limits output in order to tighten the market and bolster prices.

What they're saying: Per Reuters, Novak cited concerns about red tape and the risk of drawing U.S. sanctions.

  • "There is a consensus that there will be no such organization," Novak said.
  • OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo had previously said the producers planned to create some form of permanent, institutional structure. 
  • Legislation has been rattling around Congress for almost 2 decades that would target OPEC using U.S. anti-trust laws, but it’s been getting more attention lately.

Be smart: Oil analyst Ellen Wald tells Axios that the ad-hoc nature of the existing agreement better suits Russia’s interests.

  • "Russia is in the best situation now, where it is clearly the power broker in OPEC ... but it doesn't have real commitments beyond what it commits in terms of production every 6 months or so," Wald said.

Where it stands: Most recently, the OPEC+ group agreed to jointly curb output by 1.2 million barrels per day for 6 months beginning in January. 

  • However, the latest deal has not yet prevented crude oil prices from tumbling amid robust supplies and fears that a global economic slowdown will soften demand growth.
  • Brent crude, the global benchmark, is trading at below $53-per-barrel Thursday and even briefly fell below $50 earlier this week, a steep drop from prices that reached $86 in early October.

Go deeper

Cuomo scandal snares Dems on #MeToo

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images   

The searing sexual harassment allegations made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are trouble for Democrats far beyond Albany and New York.

Why it matters: They hammered Donald Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape. Pilloried Brett Kavanaugh over Christine Blasey Ford. Defended President Biden when he was accused of inappropriate touching. Now, Democrats have to show whether they walk the "#MeToo" talk.

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.

Border Democrat warns Biden about immigrant fallout

Henry Cuellar (right). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.