“The potential implications and unintended consequences of this legislation require further study and deliberation, particularly during this dynamic moment in the global energy markets brought about by President Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. The White House has no official position yet on the bill, she said.
Oil prices at historic highs are bolstering a decades-long effort to subject OPEC to U.S. antitrust laws. A vote Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee paves the way for full Senate consideration. The House Judiciary Committee approved its own version of the bill last year.
While the so-called Nopec bill has been introduced many times over the past two decades — never to any avail — it now comes as record pump prices stoke already historic inflation.
Whether such a measure could actually rein in runaway prices is another matter. The oil market has been upended since the bill last gained traction in 2019, reshaped by a global pandemic that briefly destroyed demand, and a supply war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that flooded the market with crude and helped send oil futures below zero for the first time ever.
Now, the world is short on oil, with Russia frozen out of international trade and OPEC and its allies contending with capacity constraints that limit their ability to raise output. The U.S., as the world’s No. 1 oil producer, has the most power to tame prices by raising production, but companies enjoying historic profits are reluctant to accelerate growth.
It’s unclear when, or if, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will bring the measure, authored by Iowa’s conservative Republican Chuck Grassley, to the floor.
“Obviously OPEC is a problem,” Schumer said last week, adding that he’s more focused on forthcoming legislation to beef up the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to go after gasoline price manipulation.
When Congress passed a version of the bill in 2007, it died under veto threat from President George W. Bush who said it could lead to oil supply disruptions as well as “retaliatory action against American interests.”