The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act (NOPEC) bill, Reuters reports, paving the way–if signed into law by the president–for a lawsuit against OPEC for antitrust behavior and market manipulation.
The Thursday vote saw the U.S. Senate panel come out in favor of NOPEC, which has been on and off the table for decades, failing to get past Congressional committees until recently, when gasoline prices in the U.S. have maintained all-time highs.
It is still unclear whether the bill, approved by the Senate panel, will move on to the Senate or to U.S. President Joe Biden. It is also unclear whether Biden would sign this legislation into law.
Opposition to NOPEC by major trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute (API) has intensified in recent weeks and months. They fear it could backfire on America’s oil and gas industry and U.S. interests.
The vote comes at a tense time for U.S-Saudi relations, with Saudi Arabia making it very publicly known–through interviews and op-eds–that it is unhappy with the lack of support offered by the Biden Administration for Saudi defense against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, despite the threat Houthi attacks pose to Saudi oil facilities.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal published a story headlined “U.S. Saudi Relations Finally Start to Thaw”, but a NOPEC vote that would make it possible for the United States to sue OPEC is likely to have a detrimental effect on that alleged thaw.
Also on Wednesday, news reports emerged that CIA director Bill Burns had met in secret with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in April to try to “patch” things up.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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