House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blamed the continued record surge in gas prices on “exploitation” by oil companies, and touted a bill that would essentially allow the president to control prices.
During her weekly press briefing, Pelosi touted a Democrat-backed bill called the “Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act,” which would allow the president to declare an “energy emergency” giving him the ability to regulate prices by preventing fuel companies from selling their products at prices deemed to be “unconscionably excessive” and “exploiting” such an emergency.
“Next week on the floor of the House, we will have another piece of our lowering-costs-for-the-American-people legislation,” Pelosi said. “House Democrats, led by [Washington] Congresswoman [Kim] Schrier and [California] Congresswoman [Katie] Porter introduced the ‘Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act.’ While families are struggling to pay higher prices at the pump, oil and gas companies are recording record profits, with [the] seven largest oil companies announcing buybacks that could total $41 billion this year alone. Again and again, we see gas prices rise, sometimes when the cost of oil drops, oil prices drop, and price gouging needs to be stopped. This is a major exploitation of the consumer because this is a product that the consumer must have.”
“Again, the Putin [Price] Hike at the pump is a part of this,” Pelosi continued. “You would think that the oil companies would compensate for that rather than exploit the opportunity that it — so in this bill, what this bill does [is] — price gouging needs to be addressed, including new tools at the [Federal Trade Commission] to address those abuses. Our bill enables the president to issue an energy emergency declaration making it unlawful to increase gas and home energy prices in an exploitative and excessive way, which is part of the business plan of these companies.”
The bill authorizes the president to declare an “energy emergency” anywhere within the United States, and use federal powers to regulate prices to combat it. “The President may issue an energy emergency proclamation for any area within the jurisdiction of the United States” within one week of a “reasonably foreseeable emergency” for a period of up to 30 days, the bill states. These proclamations can be renewed for consecutive periods. During the emergency, the bill states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell a consumer fuel, at wholesale or retail…at a price that—
(A) is unconscionably excessive; and
(B) indicates the seller is exploiting the circumstances related to an energy emergency to increase prices unreasonably.
Violations of the order would be treated as an unfair or deceptive trade practice, and enforced by the FTC. The bill instructs the FTC to prioritize sellers with total wholesale or retail sales of more than $500 million annually for enforcement.
The bill also sets up a “Consumer Relief Trust Fund” to deposit fines collected by the FTC while enforcing an energy emergency. Those funds would be distributed to low-income households via the Department of Health and Human Services’ “Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program” and the Department of Energy’s “Weatherization Assistance Program.”
Democrats have continued to press short-term, demand side solutions, such as rebate programs and gas cards, to soaring gas prices, which broke new record highs on Wednesday at $4.40 a gallon, according to AAA. The Biden administration has also called for oil companies to increase supply right away. But the administration canceled an enormous oil and gas lease sale in Alaska and two sales under consideration in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday.