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House Passes Fuel ‘Price Gouging’ Bill

Government

Man filling gasoline | Image by Maria Sbytova

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The Hill reports the House passed HR-7688, otherwise known as the “Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act,” last Wednesday, 217-207.

Rep. Kim Schrier authored the bill meant to protect consumers from paying “unconscionable” prices at the gas pump.

According to The Hill, analysts say fuel costs are based on market forces rather than price gouging, but Schrier sees record profits as a red flag.

“What’s infuriating is that this is happening at the same time that gas and oil companies are raking in record profits and then putting those dollars into stock buybacks,” Schrier said.

Republican opponents say this is an attempt by Democrats to shift the blame for rising fuel prices.

“First they blamed it on COVID, then they blamed it on Putin…and now they’re blaming it on mom and pop gas stations who are often just struggling to get by,” Rep. Debbie Lesko said.

All house Republicans voted against the bill. They were joined by four Democrat voters: Jared Golden, Kathleen Rice, Lizzie Fletcher, and Stephanie Murphy.

Since no house Republicans voted for the bill, it is expected to fail in the Senate as 10 Republicans would be needed to pass it.

The bill offers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to pursue legal action against anyone accused of price gouging.

Two amendments were approved, including one that would allow the FTC to find out whether or not oil and gas companies are manipulating the price of gasoline by reducing the capacity of the refineries or other means.

The other amendment would create a new unit at the FTC with authority to monitor fuel markets.

Gas prices continue to rise. According to AAA, the average price for gasoline in the U.S. on May 23 was $4.59 per gallon.

The cost of gasoline is tied back to the price of crude. According to a CNET report, any $10 increase in a barrel of oil leads to a roughly $0.25 increase at the pump.

Troy Vincent, head of analysis firm DTN, said the high cost of crude oil deals with more than just the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

During the pandemic, gasoline demand plummeted, causing producers to slow production. Now, demand has reached pre-pandemic levels, but according to Vincent, producers are still gun-shy about increasing production.

Representative Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) said the bill “Would not fix high gasoline prices at the pump and has the potential to exacerbate the supply shortage our country is facing.”

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) defended the bill, saying, “Even if it weren’t the issue, or even if you don’t think it’s the issue, what is the harm of giving the FTC the authority to go after oil companies if they are price gouging?”

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