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GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley calls for OPEC collusion crackdown after production cut

<i>Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/FILE</i><br/>
Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA
Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/FILE

by Matt Egan, CNN

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday called for punishing OPEC for its production cut by passing legislation that would hold foreign oil producers accountable for colluding to fix prices.

Grassley, a longtime backer of so-called NOPEC legislation, announced in a statement obtained first by CNN that he plans to file his bill as an amendment to an upcoming defense spending bill.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer -— a Democrat — indicated he was open minded about NOPEC.

“What Saudi Arabia did to help Putin continue to wage his despicable, vicious war against Ukraine will long be remembered by Americans,” Schumer said. “We are looking at all the legislative tools to best deal with this appalling and deeply cynical action, including the NOPEC bill.”

The legislation, which easily passed out of committee in May, would clear the way for the Justice Department to sue Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations for antitrust violations.

“My bipartisan NOPEC Act would crack down on these tactics by the foreign oil cartel,” Grassley said in a statement. “It’s already cleared the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t pass as a part of our upcoming defense authorization effort. Our energy supply is a matter of national security.”

The White House issued a statement on Wednesday that hinted at potential support for NOPEC.

The renewed campaign by Grassley comes after OPEC+ announced plans on Wednesday to slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day. The supply cut is already lifting oil and gasoline prices at a time when inflation remains very high and voters are upset with the state of the economy.

The White House swiftly expressed disappointment and warned it will “consult with Congress on additional tools and authorities” to curb OPEC’s “control” over energy prices.

That was viewed by some as a signal the Biden administration could drop its opposition to NOPEC, a bill that has been floated for many years.

However, some analysts have warned it could backfire, setting the stage for a tit-for-tat battle between the United States and OPEC that ends up driving gasoline prices even higher.

Amos Hochsten, Biden’s top energy envoy, told CNN’s Bianna Golodryga on CNN’s New Day on Thursday the administration will “identify tools that we have to ensure that organizations like OPEC that assign quotas to their members of how much to produce are not — have a muted and less of an impact on American consumers.”

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