House passes oil antitrust task-force bill

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 20 -- The US House passed, by a vote of 324 to 84, a bill that would create a new oil antitrust task force within the Department of Justice. Supporters of HR 6074, which also would give DOJ authority to sue foreign oil cartels for violating US antitrust laws, included 103 Republicans, according to its sponsor Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.).

"Until we finally have an energy policy other than drill-and-burn, this bill will begin to set things right for the American people. We cannot drill or grow our way out of this energy crisis. We must begin to think differently in America. That includes loosening the stranglehold other nations have on our economy and exploring new forms of energy," he said following the vote.

The new "Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force" would be charged with determining the existence and extent of gasoline price gouging, anticompetitive price discrimination by refiners, actions to inflate prices by constraining supplies, and possible oil price manipulation in futures markets, Kagen said.

The bill, which would amend the Sherman Antitrust Act, also requests a Government Accountability Office study on the effects on competition of prior oil industry mergers and divestitures, he indicated.

"This legislation will address the loopholes and exemptions that oil companies exploit at the great expense of our citizens," Kagen said. "By passing the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, the House agrees that it is time to give US authorities the ability to prosecute the anticompetitive conduct committed by international cartels that restricts supply and drives up prices."

Frequent investigations
Opponents disagreed when he introduced the bill on May 19. "It seems that every year, Congress conducts a new investigation of the oil industry," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). "By my estimation, in this House, committees have held no less than 20 hearings, and that's on gas prices. In the House Judiciary Committee alone, we've held two hearings just this year and there's another one scheduled for Thursday," he added.

Gasoline prices have continued to rise despite such oversight, King continued. "As the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] has reported, changes in world oil prices have explained 85% of the changes in the price of gasoline in the US. The price of gas at the pump closely tracks the price of a barrel of oil in the world market. Further, the FTC has repeatedly found that there is no broad-based collusion to fix prices or engage in price gouging in the retail sale of gasoline."

This would be the second time the House considered a No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) bill, which would attempt to change the Act of State doctrine and the concept of sovereign immunity, King said. "There is no certainty that enabling the attorney general to sue [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] for an antitrust violation will result in lower gas prices for Americans. Given the instability that such a suit might create in the world oil market, this legislation would be long on psychic compensation but short on actual returns to America's pocketbook," he maintained.

King urged House Democrats to consider bills that would authorize federal leasing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain and on more of the Outer Continental Shelf instead. "I recognize that this bill will likely pass the House again, but I urge the majority to quit with the cheap theatrics and easy votes," he said.

House leaders respond
House leaders responded to H.R. 6074's passage along party lines. "The House voted today with a strong bipartisan and veto-proof margin to hold foreign oil cartels and Big Oil accountable," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

The legislation gives DOJ "a critical tool to pursue antitrust actions against OPEC-controlled entities for fixing prices," creates a new oil industry task force within DOJ, and requires that major oil company mergers in recent years be examined for anticompetitive effects, she said.

"Instead of using a veto threat to shield cartels and Big Oil companies from accountability, the Bush administration should work with Congress to protect consumers," Pelosi said.

Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that with the price of oil nearing $130/bbl, consumers deserved more than warmed-over legislation seeking to authorize federal lawsuits against overseas oil producing nations.

"Unfortunately, what we saw today on the floor was more theatrical than substantive in nature," he declared. Republicans plan to offer proposals later in the week to produce more oil and refine more gasoline domestically, Blunt said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

Related Articles

Chinese regulators approve Sinopec’s plan for grassroots refinery

02/06/2015 China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Nation...

BOEM schedules public meetings about draft proposed 5-year OCS plan

02/06/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the first of 20 public meetings in Washington on Feb. 9 to receive public comments on potential ...

Congressional Republicans renew bid to halt sue-and-settle maneuvers

02/05/2015 Calling it an affront to regulatory accountability that results in unchecked compliance burdens, US Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and US Rep. D...

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations’ other problems

02/05/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...

Goodlatte reintroduces bills to repeal, reform RFS

02/05/2015 Calling it “a true ‘kitchen table’ issue,” US Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) reintroduced a pair of bills to address problems in the federal Renewable ...

Alberta’s premier seeks more North American energy integration

02/05/2015 Better policy integration and cooperation will be needed for Canada, Mexico, and the US to fully realize the North American energy renaissance’s po...

Oil, gas infrastructure investments essential, House panel told

02/04/2015 Investments in oil and gas transportation and storage should move ahead because they are essential in continuing the US economic recovery and North...

EPA suggests DOS reconsider Keystone XL climate impact conclusions

02/03/2015 The US Department of State might want to reconsider its conclusions regarding potential climate impacts from the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pip...

Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/02/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


Cognitive Solutions for Upstream Oil and Gas

When Fri, Jun 12, 2015

The oil & gas sector is under pressure on all sides. Reserves are limited and it’s becoming increasingly expensive to find and extract new resources. Margins are already being squeezed in an industry where one wrong decision can cost millions. Analyzing data used in energy exploration can save millions of dollars as we develop ways to predict where and how to extract the world’s massive energy reserves.

This session with IBM Subject Matter Experts will discuss how IBM Cognitive Solutions contribute to the oil and gas industry using predictive analytics and cognitive computing, as well as real time streaming for exploration and drilling.

register:WEBCAST


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected