From Petrodollar to Petroyuan: The Changing Landscape of Global Oil Transactions


Explainer: The Myth of the 50-Year Petrodollar Treaty

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The Myth and the Truth

Recent reports circulating online claim that a 50-year ‘petrodollar’ treaty between the US and Saudi Arabia has expired. This story, despite its traction, is fiction. Originating from dubious sources, it appears designed to attract attention, particularly among crypto investors. In reality, while the US and Saudi Arabia did sign a significant agreement in 1974, there was no formal, expiring petrodollar treaty. The arrangement for Saudi oil sales in dollars was informal and without an expiration date, and the petrodollar system developed organically over time.

Origins of the Petrodollar

The petrodollar system began in the aftermath of the US abandoning the gold standard in 1971, leading to a period of economic instability. By 1974, the US had managed to persuade Saudi Arabia to price its oil in dollars. This move helped stabilize the dollar and reinforced its position as the world’s reserve currency.

The Rise of the Petrodollar

The informal agreement with Saudi Arabia ensured that oil sales were conducted in dollars, providing a de facto commodity backing for the US currency. This system significantly bolstered the dollar’s global dominance and economic stability.

Challenges to the Petrodollar

The stability of the petrodollar system was tested during the 1978-79 oil crisis and again during the 2000s as oil prices surged. The US response to these crises, particularly the actions of Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker in the late 1970s and early 1980s, helped reinforce the system. However, subsequent economic policies and global events have eroded this foundation.

Decline of the Petrodollar

Over recent decades, the petrodollar system has faced significant challenges. Rising oil prices, economic policies, and geopolitical shifts have weakened the dollar’s implicit oil backing. The financial crisis of 2008 and the advent of quantitative easing further undermined confidence in the dollar.

The Rise of Alternatives

Countries like China have sought alternatives to the dollar, promoting the yuan for oil transactions. The Ukraine conflict and subsequent sanctions have accelerated this trend, with nations like China and India increasingly trading oil in their local currencies.

The Future of the Petrodollar

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to sell oil in currencies other than the dollar signals a significant shift. While the petrodollar system has been beneficial for Riyadh, changing geopolitical and economic dynamics are pushing towards diversification.


The petrodollar system, while still influential, is undeniably in decline. The myth of an expiring 50-year treaty highlights a broader truth: the era of dollar dominance in oil trade is fading, driven by both economic realities and geopolitical shifts. The future will likely see a more multipolar world where oil transactions are conducted in a variety of currencies.

David Okafor
David Okafor
David Okafor Foreign Affairs Editor, Naija247news Media Group David Okafor is the Foreign Affairs Editor at Naija247news Media Group, with over five years of experience in international journalism. He excels in delivering insightful and impactful coverage of global politics and economic trends. Holding a degree in International Relations, David is known for his investigative skills and editorial leadership. His work ensures Naija247news provides accurate and comprehensive analysis of world events, earning him respect in the media industry.

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