Off The Wire
Trump official slams cartels as lawmakers push anti-OPEC bill
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Trump administration official on Friday said U.S. national security depends on affordable energy, and slammed cartels when asked whether President Donald Trump would support a bill targeting the OPEC production group’s oil supply cuts.
“The United States is firmly committed to open, fair, and competitive markets for global energy trade,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We do not support market-distorting behavior, including cartels.”
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which includes the world’s top crude exporter Saudi Arabia, says it is not a cartel but rather a production group.
Trump has criticized the group for cutting supplies and urged it to produce more to lower global oil prices. But he has also been careful to not take action on Saudi Arabia, a major buyer of U.S. weapons.
The House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously passed the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels, or NOPEC, bill, but it was uncertain whether it would get a vote from the full House.
The bill has appeared in Congress in various forms over the last 20 years and today’s oil prices are low compared to 2008, when the bill passed the House.
The senior official’s comments were the furthest the Trump administration has gone in commenting on the bill.
Last summer, OPEC cooperated with non-OPEC producer Russia to boost output before Trump reimposed sanctions on oil exports from Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archenemy. But OPEC’s output fell in January by the largest amount in two years as its Gulf members over-delivered on a supply cutting plan to boost prices and amid the Iran sanctions.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis