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A legal case against the OPEC cartel

Decades of putting up with OPEC have not reduced oil prices.

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As the national average price of gasoline raced toward $4 a gallon and airlines laid off workers by the thousands because of rising jet fuel costs, the US House of Representatives took action: It overwhelmingly passed the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008.

The bill would have made it illegal for foreign states "to act collectively" to limit the production or distribution of oil. Put simply, the bill permitted the Justice Department to charge the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with violating American antitrust laws.

Even before the 324-to-84 House vote in May, President Bush pledged a veto, saying OPEC might retaliate against US interests overseas or cut oil production further. But Senate Republicans held the line for him, this month threatening a filibuster that Democrats couldn't break. That effectively killed the bill and, for now, any hope that the US would finally start treating oil the same way it does computer chips, vitamins, and other products.

OPEC may call itself an "organization," but it is, pure and simple, a cartel that manipulates markets, restricts output, and fixes prices. The US and the European Union have vigorously prosecuted other multinational cartels for doing the same thing in other markets.


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