Oil Prices Hit New High, House Passes Anti-OPEC Legislation

May 20, 2008

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Oil prices closed over $129 for the first time Tuesday, as the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would seek to subject OPEC oil producers to U.S. antitrust laws and investigate energy market manipulation.

The June contract for light, sweet crude traded as high as $129.60 on the New York Mercantile Exchange before closing at $129.07, up $2.02 from Monday's record high. It was the 10th time in the last 12 trading sessions crude prices have hit trading or closing records. The July contract, which becomes the main contract in trading today, was trading at up to $129.29.

Oil futures are now selling for about twice what they were just a year ago, and one analyst at the Oil Price Information Service called it "a runaway market," reported the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices.

The bill would subject OPEC oil producers to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow. The legislation also creates a Justice Department task force to investigate fuel price gouging and energy market manipulation.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but the bill passed by a large enough margin to override.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, "The House today with a strong bipartisan and veto-proof margin voted to hold foreign oil cartels and Big Oil accountable.

"The legislation provides the Justice Department with a critical tool to pursue antitrust actions against OPEC-controlled entities for fixing prices and creates a new Justice Department Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force to examine anticompetitive market practices in the oil industry. It also requires that the mergers of Big Oil companies in recent years be examined for anticompetitive effects."

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