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BLOOMBERG: Anti-Opec bill sponsor expects ‘positive reception’ from Trump

Washington, February 15, 2019 | comments
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By Stephen Cunningham

(Bloomberg) -- The congressman behind a bill that would
allow the U.S. to sue OPEC for manipulating oil prices expects
President Donald Trump to back the effort once it clears
Congress.

“My sense is that the administration is waiting to
determine whether we can actually get it through both houses of
Congress before they spend any capital on it,” U.S.
Representative Steve Chabot, an Ohio Republican, said in an
interview on Friday. “I am cautiously optimistic we will be able
to get it through both houses and get it to the president’s
desk.”

The "No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act" quickly
cleared its first hurdle when it was approved by the House
Judiciary Committee earlier this month, but a floor vote hasn’t
been scheduled yet. The proposed law would subject the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to possible
antitrust action by the Justice Department through an amendment
of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the law used more than a
century ago to break up the oil empire of John Rockefeller.
Congressional support for the bill intensified last fall as
crude prices neared a four-year high on the back of production
limits set by OPEC, and Trump publicly blamed OPEC for high pump
prices in the U.S. While the producer group hasn’t set prices
since the 1980s, its members periodically agree to boost or cut
their production to keep the oil market in balance.

A 2007 version of the so-called "NOPEC" bill passed the
House and Senate by large margins, only to face a White House
veto. Other attempts to approve the legislation have met similar
fates. The difference this time is that Trump has consistently
bashed the oil cartel on Twitter for keeping prices artificially
high.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Looks like OPEC is at it again. With record amounts of Oil
all over the place, including the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil
prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be
accepted!

Sent via Twitter for iPhone.
View original tweet.

“This year, we seem to have a sympathetic White House,”
Chabot said. "I hope the president will listen to the right
people and be with us.”

The Justice Department is still reviewing the legislation,
and the White House hasn’t taken a stance on it. Both the
Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute oppose
the bill, arguing that the role of the U.S. as the world’s
biggest oil and gas producer has increased its leverage against
OPEC and provided protection against price volatility.
Prices have fallen from last year’s but that hasn’t shaken
Chabot’s resolve.

“These things are temporary and can change in the blink of
an eye,” he said. “Prices in general seem to go up very quickly
whereas they go down very slowly.”

Passage doesn’t necessarily mean that any lawsuits are
actually brought against the cartel, Chabot said. But the threat
may be enough to “keep OPEC nations more in check so they’re
reasonable and not manipulating the world market.”

Companion legislation targeting OPEC has also been
introduced in the Senate.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Stephen Cunningham in Washington at scunningha10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Marino at dmarino4@bloomberg.net
Catherine Traywick, Margot Habiby
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