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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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The NOPEC Bill Could Send Oil Prices To $300

  • For decades, different forms of ‘NOPEC’ legislation designed to pave the way for lawsuits against OPEC have been considered by Congress.
  • Last week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the NOPEC bill, leading to pushback from both within and outside the U.S.
  • OPEC’s most influential energy ministers warned that the bill could send oil prices soaring by 200 or even 300 percent.

If the U.S. passes the NOPEC bill, a bill designed to pave the way for lawsuits against OPEC members for market manipulation, the oil market could face even more chaos. OPEC’s most influential energy ministers warned against passing the legislation, suggesting it could send oil prices soaring by 200% or 300%.   “The last thing we want is someone trying to hinder that system,” the UAE’s Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said at a conference in Abu Dhabi, referring to the system OPEC has had in place for decades to ensure supply to the market is adequate (adequate according to OPEC’s view). 

“If you hinder that system, you need to watch what you’re asking for, because having a chaotic market you would see … a 200% or 300% increase in the prices that the world cannot handle,” al-Mazrouei said at a panel at the World Utilities Congress hosted by CNBC’s Dan Murphy. 

As gasoline prices in America hit record highs, some lawmakers are looking to resurrect the NOPEC legislation that would allow the U.S. Attorney General to sue OPEC or its member states for antitrust behavior. 

Forms of a NOPEC bill have been considered in Congress committees for nearly two decades, but they have never moved past committee discussions. 

Now OPEC is warning of greater market chaos if NOPEC becomes law. But it’s not only OPEC that has been warning about the implications for America in setting a precedent to remove sovereign immunity. The most powerful oil lobby in the United States, the American Petroleum Institute (API), is also against such legislation, arguing it would bring unintended harm to America’s oil and gas industry and American interests in the world. So is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, while the White House expressed “concerns” about the potential implications of such a law.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the so-called No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act (NOPEC). 

Forms of antitrust legislation aimed at OPEC were discussed at various times under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but they both threatened to veto such legislation.

This time, it’s unclear if the bill would be moved for discussion at the Senate, or then to President Joe Biden’s desk, and it’s unclear whether he would sign such legislation into law. 

Related: Europe May Lose The Energy Transition Race Before It Really Begins

Commenting on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of the NOPEC bill, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week: 

“I don’t have an official position on this legislation right now, but we do believe that this potential — the potential implications and unintended consequences of this legislation require further study and deliberation, particularly during this dynamic moment in the global energy markets brought about by President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“So, we’re taking a look at it and certainly have some concerns about what the potential implications could be,” Psaki added. 

Major trade groups have already expressed opposition to the bill, arguing it could backfire on America’s oil and gas industry and U.S. interests. 

The bill could have an unintended negative impact on America’s oil and gas industry, the API said in a letter seen by Reuters. 

The API has opposed NOPEC legislation during previous discussions of a bill. In 2019, under President Donald Trump, the institute told the then-members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, “We see this legislation as creating significant detrimental exposure to U.S. diplomatic, military and business interests while having limited impact on the market concerns driving the legislation.” 

“The legislation threatens serious, unintended consequences for the U.S. natural gas and oil industry,” and it “represents a political act aimed at removing a sovereign nation’s litigation immunity from certain U.S. laws and opens the opportunity for reciprocal or even additional action on the part of those impacted countries,” the API said more than two years ago. 

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce addressed the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, saying it opposes the bill known as S. 977.  

“Although S. 977 is intended to be limited to restraint of trade in oil, natural gas or petroleum products, the Committee should be wary of the precedent it would create. Once sovereign immunity has been eliminated for one action of a state or its agents, it can be eliminated for all state actions and the actions of agents of the state,” the Chamber of Commerce said.  

“Under reciprocal legal regimes, the United States and its agents throughout the world could be tried before foreign courts – perhaps including the military – for any activity that the foreign state wishes to make an offense,” it added.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Lars Eden on May 12 2022 said:
    Hi, 300% of 100 USD actually equals 400 USD.
  • Dennis Basco on May 12 2022 said:
    may as well make it 500 we can afford gas or diesel now
  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 12 2022 said:
    I don’t think the NOPEC bill could send the crude oil price to $300 a barrel because OPEC members aren’t going to reduce their production if the NOPEC bill is signed into law and the United States decided to sue OPEC or any of its members for cartel-like practices. Moreover, the NOPEC Bill doesn’t pose any threat to OPEC for the following reasons.

    1- The first is that the NOPEC bill is unenforceable against OPEC since it isn’t a cartel. A cartel is defined as an association of manufacturers and suppliers whose goal is to increase their collective profits by means of price fixing, limiting supply, preventing competition or other restrictive practices. OPEC has never once tried to fix a specific price nor has ever been able to achieve this goal. For instance, OPEC was not able to prevent prices from falling in the 1980s even after it adopted the production quota system in 1982. Moreover, OPEC was neither able to temper oil prices in 2008 when prices rocketed to $147 a barrel nor was it able to stop the 2014 oil price crash. When it comes to limiting oil supply, a true cartel like the “Seven Western Sisters” was able to do exactly that because it was virtually in control of global oil resources. OPEC accounts for only 34.7% of the global oil market and 30.8% of exports according to the 2021 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Both the United States and Russia have 12% of the market each.

    2- The second reason is that if the United States tries to sue OPEC or any of its members, the organization could stop all its oil exports to the US. NOPEC only has jurisdiction in the United States but no extraterritorial jurisdiction under international law.

    3- The third reason is that if, however, the United States persists with mounting law suits against OPEC or its members, they could retaliate by withdrawing their investments and funds in the US and even replace the petrodollar with the petro-yuan. This would be the most serious retaliation against the US. Once Saudi Arabia and UAE have made the switch, the overwhelming majority of OPEC members will follow suit exactly as they did in 1975 when they adopted the petrodollar. This will literally pull the rug from under the petrodollar and the US financial system it underpins.

    The petrodollar provides at least three immediate benefits to the United States. (1) It increases global demand for US dollars. (2) It also increases global demand for US debt securities and (3) it gives the United States the ability to buy oil with a currency it can print at will. In geopolitical terms, the petrodollar lends vast economic and political power to the United States. Maintaining the petrodollar is America’s primary goal.

    Were Saudi-led OPEC to replace the petrodollar with the petro-yuan, China to pay for its almost 13.0 million barrels a day (mbd) of crude imports by petro-yuan, Russia to sell its 8.0 mbd of exports in ruble, Venezuela and Iran to accept the petro-yuan for their exports, the petrodollar will certainly lose an estimated 80% of global oil trade and its status as the oil currency of the world. This could lead to a loss of one quarter to one third of its value against other major currencies. For this reason we will never see oil prices rise to $300.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Rob Grant on May 12 2022 said:
    When will the Biden administration understand that the world oil market is subject to the laws of supply and demand and allow the US Energy companies get back to producing the supply side without all the restrictions placed by Biden and his cronnies?

Leave a comment




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