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On 5 May, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-4 to approve the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act, which could open members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partners to antitrust lawsuits for “orchestrating supply cuts that raise global crude prices.”
In particular, this bipartisan bill would change US antitrust law to revoke the sovereign immunity that protects OPEC and its national oil companies from lawsuits.
If signed into law, NOPEC would give the US attorney general the ability to sue sovereign states, including Saudi Arabia or the UAE, in federal court.
Other oil producers, like Russia, which is part of a wider group known as OPEC+, could also be sued.
To become law, the bill has to be approved by the full senate and house of representatives, and then signed by President Biden.
Following the bill approval by the senate committee, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “We are taking a look at it and certainly have some concerns about what the potential implications could be.”
Since the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the White House has repeatedly demanded that its allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi break with their OPEC+ commitments and increase oil production.
OPEC+ also recently abandoned the use of US-funded energy data in setting its policies and pricing, at the behest of Saudi Arabia.
Most recently, a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said that the US is the only one to blame for their current energy crisis, which saw gas prices hit a record above $4.30 a gallon this spring in the wake of harsh economic sanctions imposed on the Kremlin.
“When you say that Saudi Arabia has not budged on the issue of the oil problems that America is facing, basically America itself is the reason for the state that they’re in because of their energy policy,” Al-Faisal told state-run outlet Arab News during an interview aired on 2 May.