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Congress considers bill enabling litigation against OPEC

Trump would be just the President for the job

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Trump’s open and repeated criticism of OPEC and its influence on oil prices provides credibility to the belief that he would sign into law the NOPEC legislation that is currently making its way through Congress.

The bill would allow America to pursue litigation against OPEC on anti trust grounds NOPEC isn’t a totally new concept, as it has been drafted and voted through Congress some 16 times over the past 18 years, but never made it past the President’s desk, whether it was Bush or Obama. But Trump could give NOPEC a different sort of ending, one which could see it taking up the status of US law.

Anadolu agency reports:

A legislation being debated in Congress could put pressure on OPEC if it is signed into law by President Donald Trump who has long been critical of the cartel’s practices.

If the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC, is signed into law, it would allow the U.S. to sue the cartel for manipulating crude prices and global oil market that caused enormous damage for the American economy and consumers.

In November 2014, led by then-Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, the Kingdom had refused to listen to other cartel countries’ appeal to cut output in order to rid oversupply in the global market to boost lower oil prices.

Spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, OPEC had agreed to keep its oil production unchanged — a strategy that is seen by many analysts as an attempt to keep global oil supply high, lower crude prices even further and kick high-cost U.S. shale oil producers out of the market.

With oil prices diving below $30 per barrel in January 2016 to their lowest level in 13 years, OPEC’s strategy was disastrous for the American oil industry.

“Around $250 billion investment in U.S. oil market disappeared, 250,000 jobs were lost, more than 300 oil companies in the U.S. declared for bankruptcy. And, countless billions of dollars were lost in tax revenue,” Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, told Anadolu Agency.

“It [the Act] should have been brought up in 2014, or certainly in 2015, when OPEC set out and launched an attack against the U.S. I think, the president and the Congress would have responded very differently,” he added.

The NOPEC Act was first introduced in 2000 to allow the cartel to be sued by the U.S. in violation of anti-trust laws. It has been introduced around 16 times since then, but former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were openly against it.

“In the energy industry our players get hurt, because some actions by OPEC — flooding the market with oil at a time where normally they wouldn’t have in the past — ended up prices going too low during the production war, knocking out a lot of investment that we probably are going to need in future,” senior market analyst Phil Flynn from Chicago-based futures brokerage firm, Price Futures Group, told Anadolu Agency.

“I would argue that OPEC conspired to knock a lot of energy producers out of business so that they could maintain the market share. And I think they succeeded in doing that in a large degree,” he said.

NOPEC was sent for discussion to the House floor last week by the House Judiciary Committee. And, this time, if it passes, it could be signed into law by Trump.

The president has recently upped his criticism against OPEC. “Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!”, Trump wrote last week. And in April: “Looks like OPEC is at it again. With record amounts of Oil all over the place, including the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!”

Trump’s criticism of the cartel dates back decades. In his 2011 book, Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again, he wrote: “We can start by suing OPEC for violating antitrust laws.” In his 1987 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, he wrote, “There was just one problem: OPEC. Almost immediately, oil prices started going through the roof, which devastated the airlines.”

During an interview with CNN’s Larry King in 2009 in the middle of the financial crisis, Trump said: “When the economy starts getting better, you will have an OPEC problem. They’ll just start raising the price of oil again and destroy the economy … as soon as the world comes back, OPEC will raise its ugly head and destroy it again.”

OPEC, however, along with the world’s major crude producer, Russia, agreed at the end of 2016 to lower their oil production by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) from the beginning of 2017 to boost prices. The agreement was later extended until the end of 2018. Last month oil prices rose to $80 per barrel.

Although Trump is still critical for high crude prices and rising gasoline prices that hurt American people at pumping stations, higher crude prices has helped the U.S. shale and oil industry in general.

America’s crude oil output has recently hit an all-time of 10.9 million bpd. It surpassed Saudi Arabia in February and the U.S. became the world’s second-biggest crude producer.

“Higher oil prices help U.S. shale producers,” Hirs said, adding “Yet again, OPEC sells the U.S. oil for less than the U.S. can produce it today.

“The fact is they produce oil for a whole lot less than it would cost the U.S. to be self-sufficient,” he said.

Flynn said even if NOPEC passes Congress and signed into law, the major problem would be to enforce it.

“I mean you’re going to have to bring a lot of lawsuits against OPEC as a cartel and try to fight it in our courts. Whether or not some of these countries in the cartel will actually react to it remains to be seen. So it’s going be kind of crazy,” he said.

Whether the U.S. could impose sanctions on OPEC countries and officials, Flynn said it could be a possibility.

He said, however, if the U.S. places tariffs on OPEC’s oil, it would cost the U.S. more to import oil.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult thing to enforce,” he concluded.

But with Trump’s determination to do things differently, and his willingness to rip up international agreements, OPEC should be getting scared. One thing OPEC member nations ought to fear is attracting too much attention from Trump, as he is quick to lay blame, and is not afraid of shaking things up, even if that means disrupting the status quo.

 

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Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

I understood the anti-trust laws to be a peculiarly American thing. It is a concept derived in America, and the laws are passed in America by the American government to control — American companies.
If oil cartels from other nations are doing something America doesn’t like, what power, what right, does America have to sue them under American legislation.
Does America think it’ rules the world, or am I missing something?

Suzanne Giraud
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Suzanne Giraud

THAT WOULD BE HUGE! Is not the ‘petro-dollar’ the engine of (non-gold backed) Fiat currencies…?

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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Despite Pledge Not to, Germany Approves Sale of Arms to Saudi Arabia

Germany is the latest to renege on promises to ban weapons sales for use in the Yemen War.

The Duran

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Authored by Jason Ditz via AntiWar.com:


With Saudi Arabia forever escalating their war in Yemen, the growing calls by human rights groups to stop selling them arms with which to commit war crimes are struggling to compete with the vast sums of money the Saudis are offering for those arms.

Germany is the latest to renege on promises to ban weapons sales for use in the Yemen War, announcing Wednesday that the Economy Minister has greenlit a new round of artillery systems for sale to the Saudis.

The systems are designed for precise counterattack, and are clearly being bought explicitly to use in Yemen. Yet the Merkel government, as part of its coalition deal, announced a full export ban to “any sides fighting in Yemen,” including the Saudis.

While this was at the time supposed to be a condition of the Social Democrats joining the government. So far, Merkel has not explained why the sale was approved over the putative ban, and the Social Democrats have not complained either.

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