US Senate committee votes in favour of 'NOPEC' legislation
The US Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted in favour of the
so-called "NOPEC" legislation, which would allow for criminal prosecution of
countries that organize energy cartels and manipulate the prices of natural
The bill is the latest version of similar legislation that has failed to
make its way through Congress in several attempts since 2000.
Although a US federal court ruled in 1979 that OPEC's pricing decisions are
the result of "governmental" rather than commercial actions, meaning that
they are protected by the sovereignty of foreign governments, the NOPEC
bill, which was sponsored by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), would allow US law
enforcement agencies and the federal government "to begin legal proceedings
against any foreign power, including the member nations of OPEC, for
conspiring to fix prices and artificially decrease the volume of available
The measures that could be taken against such nations or their agents would
be left to the discretion of the judges, but would probably include freezing
or confiscation of the US-held assets of foreign governments.
The legislation has nothing specific to say about gas, preferring instead to
talk about "a confederacy of oil-exporting countries, as a result of which
[oil] reserves were artificially and critically cut and prices inflated on
Nevertheless, Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee chairman
Konstantin Kosachyov and Russian gas behemoth Gazprom have expressed concern
that the bill's language leaves plenty of latitude for the US to take action
on other energy-resource fronts.
A source in a Russian ministry told that even if the Senate is not
specifically targeting Russia, "we should not remain silent."
Russia's concern comes in the wake of the meeting in Doha, Qatar on April 9
at which gas-exporting countries including Iran, Venezuela, Algeria, and
Russia discussed the possible formation of an organization of gas-exporting
countries modelled on OPEC. The different branches of the US government are
known to be of unusually like mind in their opposition to the possible gas