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VIENNA: Once mighty, the OPEC that met in Vienna on Wednesday is a fractured, obsolete cartel desperate to push the price of a barrel of oil somewhere above that of a bag of desert sand. TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl puts it plainly: it's hopeless. "None of the members are willing to cut production, and when they do, the gap is happily filled by non-member like Mexico," he says. "As long as the global economy is in a slowdown and energy demand is weak, the price isn't going to go up anytime soon."

That's just fine with the rest of the world. With the exception of Russia, which doesn't have anything to export except oil, crisis victims from South Korea to Brazil are buyers, not producers -- oil at 13 bucks a barrel is about their best chance for a speedy recovery, and in the meantime they don't need much of it. Which leaves OPEC countries selling their lifeblood at a loss and powerless to close the wound. Flies on the wall in Vienna this week should get an earful of nostalgia for those glorious '70s.