US Congress to challenge OPEC’s clout by resurrecting NOPEC Bill

It’s called the NOPEC Act and it has once again been triggered by the US President Donald Trump. U.S. politicians have tried several times since 2000 to pass the NOPEC bill, but the White House opposed it. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama threatened to use their veto. The risk for OPEC is that Trump may break with his predecessors.

It means No Oil Producing and Export Cartels (NOPEC). The aim of NOPEC Bill is allow the U.S. government to sue OPEC, or its members, for anti-trust violations over the price of crude oil.

The NOPEC Act is now under consideration again in both houses of Congress. The goal is to end “illegal price fixing” by OPEC, which accounts for about one third of the world’s oil. OPEC, they say, can manipulate prices by adjusting the amount of oil it puts on the market.

Analysts say this effort may be different and could become law because President Trump has repeatedly criticized OPEC, calling the group a “monopoly”, while demanding it reduce oil prices.

The House Judiciary Committee of the US Senate has approved by voice vote the bipartisan NOPEC Act. This legislation makes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) subject to U.S. antitrust law by removing state immunity shields created by judicial precedent.

Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee said, “The purpose of antitrust law is to protect consumers from behemoths in any industry that threaten competition and control prices. The fact that OPEC has not been held accountable for its cartel behavior makes a mockery of U.S. antitrust law, threatens the American economy, and has the potential to harm our national security. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation quickly.”

The OPEC cartel has always been a bogeyman for U.S. politicians since the first oil crisis in 1973. Now OPEC is facing a renewed political assault in Washington, directly from President Trump’s Twitter account, and quietly, but potentially more dangerously, from Congress.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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