By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of bipartisan U.S. senators on Wednesday said they have reintroduced legislation to pressure the OPEC oil production group to stop making output cuts.
The so-called No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels, or NOPEC, bill was reintroduced by senators Chuck Grassley, a Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and others on the Judiciary Committee.
If passed by the committee, both chambers of Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, NOPEC would change U.S. antitrust law to revoke the sovereign immunity that has protected OPEC+ members and their national oil companies from lawsuits over price collusion.
Several attempts to pass NOPEC over more than two decades have long worried OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia, leading Riyadh to lobby hard every time a version of the bill has come up.
The bill passed the committee 17-4 last year after the OPEC+ producer group, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day.
“The oil cartel and its member countries need to know that we are committed to stopping their anti-competitive behavior,” said Grassley, a supporter of the corn-based ethanol fuel industry.
Added Klobuchar: “Current law has made the Justice Department powerless to stop the 13 largest oil-producing countries from manipulating prices and driving up costs.”
OPEC has continued with the 2 million bpd cut, setting a floor on global oil prices, with the Brent international benchmark trading around $82.60 per barrel on Wednesday. [O/R]
Russia has said it is cutting output by 500,000 bpd in March after the Group of Seven nations, the EU and Australia placed a $60 barrel cap on prices of Russia’s sea-borne crude oil exports in response to its war in Ukraine.
OPEC has not indicated it will boost output, with an Angola official telling Reuters in Houston at the CERAWeek conference there is no need to make up the difference from the Russian reduction.