House approves bill to crack down on gasoline ‘price gouging’

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A closely divided House Thursday passed legislation to crack down on alleged price gouging by oil companies and other energy producers as prices at the pump continue to rise.

A bill backed by House Democrats would authorize President Biden to declare an energy emergency that would make “excessive” or exploitative increases in gasoline and household energy fuel prices illegal. The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission to penalize price gougers and adds a new unit to the FTC to monitor fuel markets.

“At a time when people across the country are feeling the gas pump getting stuck, Congress needs to do everything it can to cut costs for American families,” said Kim Schrier (D-Wash.). sponsored the bill.

He described the spikes in gas prices as “infuriating” as “at the same time gas and oil companies are making record profits and taking advantage of international crises to make profits”. This must stop.”

The measure was approved between 217 and 207. Republicans, along with four Democrats, unanimously opposed the bill. It’s now heading to the Senate, where a similar bill faces steep odds amid a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

The focus is on price gouging as gas prices rose to an average of $4.59 per gallon in the country on Thursday, 49 cents a gallon from a month ago and $1.55 a year, according to the AAA.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other major oil companies report increasing profits Totaling more than $40 billion in the first quarter of the year, a fact Democrats have repeatedly voiced in the ground debate. Most companies spend billions of dollars on share buybacks and dividend payments to investors.

Another co-sponsor, Rep. “Big Oil is pricing families out because they can,” said Katie Porter (D-Irvine). “It is enough.”

Republicans and industry groups misled the bill, saying there was no evidence of price gouging. Oil is a global commodity and prices are set in the global market.

Gas prices rose late last year due to supply chain issues and increased demand as the economy recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, but prices have soared more than ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. US bans import of Russian oil and other countries are looking for alternatives to Russian energy that drives prices up.

Aware of the political risks, Biden Do everything you can to alleviate the “pain of American families.” including an order to release a record amount of oil from the country’s strategic reserve.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden “welcomes all ideas to protect consumers and make sure oil companies don’t take advantage of it”. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war and fair competition.”

Republicans say the answer to high gas prices is to increase production here in the United States.

2 House Republican Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise described the bill as an attempt by Democrats “to divert blame from the government’s self-created energy and inflation crisis.”

Scalise described the bill as “a socialist price-fixing scheme that hurts small businesses and consumers the most.” He accused Democrats of “politicizing” the FTC, by giving the commission “wide-ranging powers to allow it to usurp, based on vague parameters.” market forces and government-controlled gasoline prices. ”

Representative Chris Pappas (DN.H.) said the bill was necessary. “The price of crude oil fell last month, but the prices consumers pay at the pump continued to rise. “We need to put an end to this corporate profiteering and put the families at ease,” he said.

The American Exploration and Production Council, a lobby group representing independent oil and gas producers, described the bill as counterproductive. “Energy prices are determined by supply and demand, not false accusations of ‘price gouging’ motivated by the upcoming elections,” said Anne Bradbury, CEO of the group.

The House vote came after Home Secretary Deb Haaland said the department would release a long-delayed, five-year plan that would allow for new offshore oil and gas lease sales. The current plan expires on June 30, and management officials did not say when or if a new plan will be released. Even when they canceled three planned offshore charter sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska.

Haaland told the Senate Energy Committee that the new plan will be made public by June 30. The plan does not arrange specific leases or allow any drilling projects.

“As we take this next step, we will follow science and law as we always do,” Haaland said Thursday, promising “a robust and transparent review process that includes input from states, peoples and tribes.”

As fuel prices rose due to the Biden administration, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the US came under pressure to increase crude oil production.

Biden also faces pressure from Democrats and environmental groups urging him to do more to tackle climate change, although legislative proposals on climate and clean energy stall in a sharply divided Congress.

West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III, who chairs the energy panel and plays a huge role in energy policy, said on Thursday, “While we have seen Russia waging a war in Europe made possible by energy insecurity, this administration has made its opposition. domestic oil and gas production is crystal clear.

Manchin said he supports A pause in new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters announced by Biden In January 2021, shortly after the president took office. “The time to pause has come and gone,” he told Haaland over the summer.

Now, 16 months after the hiatus, “we still don’t have any new leases,” Manchin said. “I’m sorry to say that it has become clear that the ‘pause’ is actually a ban.”

The Home Office conducted an offshore lease sale in the fall in response to a court order, but the sale was made much later. vacated by federal judge.

Management plans onshore lease sales in eight mostly Western states next month. However, authorities reduced the amount of land offered for drilling and increased royalties from energy companies by 50%.

The four Democrats who oppose the House bill are Texas Representative Lizzie Fletcher, Jared Golden of Maine, Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Kathleen Rice of New York.

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