Antitrust lawsuit against OPEC:

On Tuesday, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill authorizing Sherman Act enforcement against OPEC. Among the proponents of the idea is The Heritage Foundation. A radio report which includes my take on the issue is available in MP3 and transcript. However, it's in Russian, for the Russian station of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and may be difficult for non-Russophones to follow.

My basic analysis is: OPEC's actions are plainly contrary to the Sherman Act. In Hartford Fire Insurance Co. v. California (1993), the Supreme Court ruled that the Sherman Act could be applied to the acts of foreign corporations committed in foreign countries, if the purpose and effect the foreign acts was in part aimed at the U.S., which OPEC's actions obviously are. So even without the explicit language in the House bill, the Sherman Act allows anti-OPEC lawsuits. (And, notably, the Sherman Act, as amended by the Clayton Act, is much friendlier to civil enforcement by private parties than are the antitrust laws of most other nations.) Accordingly, the real barrier to an anti-OPEC Sherman case is the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. Indeed, in 1978 the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers brought a Sherman Act case against OPEC, only to lose the case on FSIA grounds. So the House bill creates an exception to FSIA for anti-OPEC suits.

Although I am in general an antitrust skeptic, my objections do not apply when governments are the monopolists.

Still, my view is that there are more important steps that the U.S. could take to reduce its dependence on OPEC, such as opening up ANWR, building more nuclear and clean coal plants (even though OPEC oil is a small part of US electricity production), importing more oil from Alberta, and allowing the current high prices of gasoline to encourage market solutions for less use of OPEC gasoline.