Sunday, May 27, 2007

Taking on OPEC, House Passes "NOPEC" Bill - would remove restrictions from suing OPEC countries for collusion and price fixing

The White House threatened a veto, but that gave few lawmakers pause as the House today easily approved a bill that would let the Justice Department sue members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for using anticompetitive measures to drive up oil prices globally.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan, who introduced the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act, argued that cartels like OPEC are partly to blame for today’s high gasoline prices. The bill sailed through 345-to-72a day after the Energy Department said the average pump price of regular gasoline was a record $3.218 a gallon. The bill would change certain laws, like the Sherman Act and Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, to block OPEC countries like Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela from invoking immunity from U.S. court action relating to concerns about oil production.

House passage could give the Senate a push to approve similar legislation. The Senate Judiciary Committee signed off on similar legislation in April; the NOPEC bill has been somewhat of a perennial in the Senate, which has passed similar versions of the measure three times — in 2000, 2004 and 2005. It was first introduced in the House last year but failed to advance in the Republican-led Congress.

“We don’t have to stand by and watch OPEC dictate the price of our gas without any recourse whatsoever,” said Conyers. That’s not how the White House sees it. “This bill has the potential to lead to oil supply disruptions and an escalation in the price of gasoline, natural gas, home heating oil and other sources of energy,” the White House said.

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

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