In recent weeks, it appears that regulatory and related policy interest in OPEC and other oil producers rises in direct proportion to the price of oil. On 26–27 June, European Union representatives will be travelling to Siberia in order to seek new regulatory arrangements on oil and gas imports, as well as concessions in relation to Western European investment in the Russian energy sector. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in Saudi Arabia, seeking regulatory concessions related to higher production levels for oil in order to force prices down. Against this backdrop, he has threatened to spend up to £100 billion (C=127 billion) weaning citizens off the expensive energy imports that threaten family budgets. Similarly, in the recent presidential primaries in the United States, Hillary Clinton promised to bring legal action against OPEC in relation to its cartel status. Notwithstanding the implicit evidence of the weak bargaining power of consumer nations that are forced to visit producer nations for “constructive talks, there is much to commend scholarly attention to the role of regional and multilateral institutions in relation to fossil fuels regulation at this time.
This article analyses the role of these institutions (Section 1) particularly in relation to OPEC, against the backdrop of the energy dependency (Section 2) that has evolved among leading oil consumer nations. In Section 3, we scrutinize dual energy pricing, as well as the trade compatibility of one of the EU’s answers to oil dependency, the Renewable Energy Sources Directive. We then proceed to analyse unilateral and multilateral litigation prospects in respect of OPEC’s export regulatory control practices (Section 4) prior to offering some constructive concluding remarks. In view of the current third wave international energy crisis, it is right that multilateralism should serve as a sensible way forward given the abject failure of individual consumer states thus far to both advance a sustainable energy security regulatory and policy framework and, in an integrated fashion, to address the challenges of climate change.European Energy and Environmental Law Review