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US lawmakers pass bill allowing lawsuits against oil cartels

WASHINGTON : Dubbed "NOPEC", a bill passed by the US Senate Judiciary Committee would allow legal action to be taken against cartels such as OPEC, said Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the bill's co-sponsors.

"The bill would allow the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to file antitrust lawsuits against foreign states, such as members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for price fixing and other anticompetitive activities," said the Democrat.

"High oil import costs this year have affected all Americans in the form of record-high gasoline prices that continue to soar," said Leahy to justify the measure.

The bill, just passed, would make it illegal for foreign states and their agents "to act collectively or in combination with any other foreign state ...or agent" to limit the production of oil, natural gas, or any other petroleum product, or fix the prices of such products.

Legal action may be taken, the bill said, "when such action, combination, or collective action has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on the market, supply, price, or distribution of oil, natural gas, or other petroleum product in the United States".

World oil prices remained high Thursday, climbing 91 cents to close at 51.13 dollars per barrel in New York. While below the record price set April 4 of 58.28 dollars a barrel, the price of gasoline at the pump in the United States have soared to an average record high of 2.5 dollars per gallon (3.8 liters).

- AFP

Editorial Notes: With OPEC pumping at near capacity, perhaps this bill is little more than an effort to make it look like 'something is being done' while implicitly placing the blame for high oil prices on OPEC rather than on depletion. -AF There is also an unspoken but implicit demand that other countries MUST supply the US with the maximum possible supply of resources, via the injunction against 'limiting supply'. How timely to have 'Gimme or else' entered into law. - LJ

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