May 20, 2008
The House overwhelmingly passed the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, H.R. 6074 today, waiving the sovereign immunity of OPEC nations in order to allow the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, subjecting OPEC oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to US antitrust laws. Wash Post report OPEC investments in the United States would serve as the source of damage awards. The Bush administration threatened to veto the bill, arguing that OPEC nations would retaliate by cutting crude production, hurting US gasoline refineries and raising gas prices. However, the 324-84 vote makes the measure veto-proof.
According to Speaker Pelosi, the bill also (1) creates a new DOJ Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force to examine the existence and effects of price gouging in the sale of gasoline, anticompetitive price discrimination by petroleum refiners, unilateral actions to withhold supply in order to inflate the prices, and manipulation in futures markets and (2) requires a GAO study as to the effects on competition of prior mergers and ordered divestitures in the petroleum industry.
One interesting aspect of this legislation is Congress' willingness to make US laws applicable extra-territorially. If the US extended labor and environmental laws to apply extra-territorially to multi-national corporations that are based or operate in the United States, especially labor and environmental laws, imagine how the world might change.
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