After Saudi-led international oil cartel Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, announced on Wednesday that it will be conducting its largest slash to oil production since 2020, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) expressed outrage and called for the U.S. to end military aid to Saudi Arabia altogether.
Sanders said that OPEC’s motivation is clear: to raise gas prices at a time when the oil and gas industry is already making record profits due to high gas prices and industry market manipulation.
“OPEC’s decision to cutback on production is a blatant attempt to increase gas prices at the pump that cannot stand,” Sanders wrote. “We must end OPEC’s illegal price-fixing cartel, eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia, and move aggressively to renewable energy.”
Other Democratic lawmakers have also called for an end to military assistance to Saudi Arabia, with a group of Democrats introducing legislation to mandate the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in response to the move. Progressives have previously advocated for ending military support to dangerous petrostate Saudi Arabia over the country’s devastating war on Yemen.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) echoed Sanders in agreeing that OPEC’s move is yet another reason for the U.S. to transition to renewable energy and lessen its dependence on fossil fuels. He announced that he is reintroducing legislation to initiate talks with OPEC and non-OPEC allies, known together as OPEC+, in order to “hold OPEC and its allies accountable for colluding to hike energy prices on working families.”
Climate advocates have expressed alarm that OPEC can exercise such unchecked power over the global economy, which is on the brink of a recession, while also maintaining fossil fuel’s controlling grip over the energy market.
“Right now we are witnessing how our near-total reliance on fossil fuels has allowed the world to be so easily manipulated by a handful of dangerous and greedy leaders,” Stop The Oil Profiteering spokesperson Cassidy DiPaola told Truthout. “OPEC has some of the worst human rights and environmental records in the world, and it comes as no surprise that they are using their power to fix prices and fleece consumers.”
Though reducing oil production is an ultimate goal of the climate movement, as long as OPEC’s move doesn’t come with a corresponding increase in renewable energies, it only serves to further entrench the fossil fuel industry by pumping its profits, advocates say. Over the past years, climate advocates have called for a managed decline of the oil industry — including reducing production while drastically boosting energy efficiency and renewable energies — rather than simply squeezing the supply of the energy market, as OPEC is doing.
“We cannot allow our energy to be controlled by a cartel of oil producing states,” DiPaola continued. “It is time for a swift and just transition to renewable energy that will provide the world with the energy freedom we need and deserve.”
Democrats reacted with frustration on Wednesday after OPEC announced it will soon be cutting production by 2 million barrels a day, which will likely cause oil prices to skyrocket. Oil barrel prices have been steadily declining over the past months, as the global economy teeters on a global recession, causing a corresponding decline in gas prices at the pump.
President Joe Biden’s approval rating — an important harbinger of how well Democrats will fare in this year’s midterm elections — has been trending strongly with gas prices over the course of his presidency, and this announcement may reverse the current trend of rising approval for the president.
The Biden administration has been considering a gas export ban as the midterms approach in hopes of helping to nudge gas prices even further down, a move that climate and environmental groups have called for in response to the OPEC announcement.
“It is no surprise that the international oil cartel is seeking to maintain high prices. Political leaders here at home must understand that the solution is not to increase drilling. Corporations are exporting record quantities of gasoline, and making record-setting profits as a result,” Food and Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s time to take real action to rein in this outrageous corporate profiteering. That should start with Congress passing a ban on gasoline exports.”
Oil trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute have voiced opposition to the move — likely because it could cut into their ability to price gouge, as lawmakers and climate advocates have accused oil companies of doing. Indeed, experts say that the practice of exporting oil has massively increased the U.S.’s reliance on foreign energy sources and gives fossil fuel companies the opportunity to use exports as a means to reduce domestic supply and increase prices for consumers.
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