U.S.

Senators Patrick Leahy, Chuck Grassley Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Fight Price-Fixing For OPEC Crude Oil

A group of senators from the Judiciary Committee introduced a bill Thursday that would allow the U.S. government to fight price-fixing by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC).

Led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the legislation called NOPEC stands for No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act. It will allow the Justice Department to sue oil cartels for illegal pricing and any other violations of antitrust laws. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) co-sponsored the bill.

“It’s long past time to put an end to illegal price-fixing by OPEC. The oil cartel and its member countries need to know that we are committed to stopping their anti-competitive behavior,” Grassley said in a statement. “We, in the United States, have been working for years to develop our domestic clean, renewable and alternative energy resources. We’re also committed to reducing our reliance on foreign oil, especially when it’s artificially and illegally priced. Our bill shows the OPEC members we will not tolerate their flagrant antitrust violations.”

Leahy said his constituents rely on oil to help stay warm as one cold front after another moves through the Northeast.

“As Vermonters struggle to heat their homes through another frigid winter, it’s vital to make sure that oil prices are not artificially inflated,” Leahy said Thursday. “I’ve long supported this legislation because it will crack down on the types of anti-competitive behavior that cause prices to spike for Vermonters trying to stay warm through winter, to use their farm equipment, or to get to their jobs or to the market. In this new Congress, I’m hopeful we will finally enact these reforms into law.”

The legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee with no objections during a voice vote Thursday.

OPEC, comprised of 15 countries, produces nearly three-fourths of the world’s crude oil reserves. A recent report from the Wall Street Journal indicates OPEC is considering a partnership with a 10-member oil conglomerate led by Russia, which could further warp the world market.

Sen. Klobuchar said the bill introduced Thursday would give the United States more authority to stop the powerful OPEC’s ability to drive prices, which causes a ripple effect to the American consumer.

“Current law has made the Justice Department powerless to stop OPEC and its members from coordinating oil production to manipulate prices, driving up costs for millions of Americans,” Klobuchar said. “Open competition in international oil markets is critical to ensuring that American families pay fair prices at the pump. Our bipartisan legislation would allow U.S. antitrust laws to be enforced against OPEC producers, helping to ensure that U.S. gas prices are fair and affordable.”

Sen. Lee said just because governments are involved in world oil exportations, it doesn’t give them a right to fix prices.

“If private companies engaged in the international price-fixing activities that OPEC has, there is no question they would be found guilty of illegal behavior,” Lee said. “There is no reason that the OPEC cartel should be treated differently based on their connection to national governments.”

Worldstopexports.com lists Saudi Arabia as the No. 1 exporter of crude oil exports at 15.9 percent of the world’s oil. Russia is second at 11.1 percent. The U.S. is No. 13 at 2.6 percent.

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