Mama Don’t Allow No Petroleum Cartels Around Here

I’m all for hawkish actions by the United States Congress, but this one seems a tad strange. From the Associated Press

Decrying near-record high gasoline prices, the House voted Tuesday to allow the government to sue OPEC over oil production quotas.
The White House objected, saying that might disrupt supplies and lead to even higher costs at the pump. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is the cartel that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s oil production.
“We don’t have to stand by and watch OPEC dictate the price of gas,” Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., the bill’s chief sponsor, declared, reflecting the frustration lawmakers have felt over their inability to address people’s worries about high summer fuel costs.
The measure passed 345-72. A similar bill awaits action in the Senate.
On the Judiciary Committee website, Congressman Conyers explains a few more of the details
My bill, the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2007 (“NOPEC”), enables the Department of Justice to take legal action against the OPEC nations. It does this by (1) exempting OPEC and other nations from the provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act when acting in a commercial capacity; (2) making clear that the so-called “Act of State” doctrine does not prevent courts from ruling on antitrust charges brought against foreign governments; and (3) authorizes the Department of Justice to bring lawsuits in U.S. courts against cartel members.
Any legal experts out there want to take a stab at explaining exactly what remedies are available when you sue a foreign country in an American court for not producing enough oil?

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Perry Ellis
Perry Ellis
13 years ago

Oh my! Don’t do that…you’ll make them hate us!

SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

Isn’t this kind of like trying to nationalize another country’s natural resources? I dislike greedy cartels as much as the next guy but this strikes me as a little silly.

SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

“Any legal experts out there want to take a stab at explaining exactly what remedies are available when you sue a foreign country in an American court for not producing enough oil?”
H’mm. Nuke ’em?
No, wait, that would contaminate the oil fields.
I give.

Michael
13 years ago

Nothing wrong with nuclear powered oil fields!

Will
Will
13 years ago

Unfortunately, cartels are not terribly uncommon outside of the United States, and in some cases within it. Our outrage is very selective. There’s a cartel that controls the supply and price of most diamonds worldwide. There are all sorts of transportation and banking cartels. Technically, the Federal Reserve System is a cartel, but a government sactioned one. I’m not saying they are good, simply that they aren’t uncommon. They serve a purpose: they benefit the operator/manufacturer of it’s constituent members — and they keep the price of a product or service at a predictable or stable desired level.
The idea of suing a cartel of foreign nations in a US court borders on the ludicrious. My guess is that it’s just an attempt by trial lawyers to make some money off of an unpopular industry. We wouldn’t need to worry about cartels like OPEC if our country was serious about alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear power. In France, over 80% of their electrity is produced by nuclear power. It’s clean, safe when properly monitored, produces no so-called greenhouse gases.
The main problem we face regarding oil is not the world oil supply, or even the domestic supply, it’s a lack of refining capacity. We can get all the oil we want, but if we can’t refine it, it’s almost useless.

Shoebob
Shoebob
13 years ago

Hey, we have a cartel right here in RI: The Northeast Dairy Compact, whose purpose, by its own admission, “…to restore the authority of the six New England states to set prices for Class 1 fluid milk sold in the region.” Established and protected by Congressional mandate, it ensures we pay for more to float our Super Fruity Pebbles cereal then the market would otherwise indicate.
And let’s not forget the other Congressionally mandated cartel: Major League Baseball. If not for Congress’ exempting MLB from antitrust laws, our poor MLB owners wouldn’t be able to force 18-19 year old boys to suffer indentured-servitude in the minor leagues at $20/game.
One of the big benefits of allowing cartels to be sued is that US anti-trust law allows for treble damages in collusion and price-fixing cases. Gio Cicione’s been looking to both expand the role of lawyers in RIGOP, and to raise more money, maybe bringing suit against Venezuela and Nigeria may allow him to do both simultaneously!

Andrew
13 years ago

The question of whether cartels like the ones you’ve mentioned have any justification is an interesting one, but in this case, I’m more interested in Congress’ apparent assumption that it has authority over foreign governments.
Originally, I thought that a nuance or two was missing from the AP story, but Congressman Conyers’ statement makes it pretty clear that the purpose of this law is to allow foreign governments to be sued in U.S. Courts for stuff they’re doing in their home country.
And there’s a practical problem too. When a domestic organization is found in Court to be in violation of anti-trust laws, the Federal Marshals, or the FBI, or the SEC or somebody like that has various powers they can use to enforce the decision. How do you enforce a ruling by an American court against a foreign government?

SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

” Gio Cicione’s been looking to both expand the role of lawyers in RIGOP, and to raise more money, maybe bringing suit against Venezuela and Nigeria may allow him to do both simultaneously!”
Oo, I like that. Using the resources of a dictator to advance democracy here in Rhode Island.

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
13 years ago

Hi!
This afternoon I got regular gas at $2.94 a gallon on Route#138 in Wyoming,Rhode Island.Have you seen it lower than this today (Wednesday 29,2007)?This is off Exit#3 on Route#95,.
Regards,
Scott

dick tuck
dick tuck
13 years ago

How does one enforce the judgement?

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