HOUSE VOTES TO OUTLAW OPEC MANIPULATION

The House approved legislation (H.R. 6074) by a bipartisan vote of 324-84 that would outlaw price manipulation by the oil-producing cartel. The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2008 (NOPEC), which was introduced by Representative Steve Kagen (D-WI) last Thursday, May 15, would also create a Department of Justice Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force which would develop and coordinate the implementation of investigative and enforcement policies of the Justice Department related to petroleum industry antitrust issues.

The Task Force would examine issues related to antitrust laws, including, gouging in sales of gasoline, collusive behavior in restricting petroleum refinery capacity and the existence of manipulation by refiners or “other wholesalers” of gasoline to retailers.  Much of this language is similar to the anti-manipulation language that passed in the Energy Independence Security Act last December.  The task force would also determine the existence and effects of any anticompetitive manipulation in the futures markets.    

Though the bill passed by a wide margin, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that the NOPEC bill is “meaningless,” and Republicans voted for the bill because they didn’t want to return home and have to explain to their constituents why they voted against it.  The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation after the Memorial Day recess, but it is expected that the bill will not receive the necessary 60 votes to defeat a Republican filibuster.  The President has vowed to veto the NOPEC bill if it should ever pass Congress. 

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