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  1. #1
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    BEK
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    House passes gasoline gouging bill

    Congress is desperate to show it feels your pain at the pump.

    The House today voted, 284-141, to pass a bill that would make gasoline price gouging a federal offense.

    In the Senate, Democratic leaders were scrambling to introduce a new energy bill, the first since they took control of Congress. A committee also held a hearing on whether oil industry mergers had contributed to higher fuel prices.

    And the day before, members of both parties ignored a presidential veto threat and approved legislation that would subject the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to price-fixing lawsuits.

    Record high gasoline prices have drivers grumbling nationwide. Members of Congress have particular cause for alarm as they prepare to recess for a week for Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer driving season.

    "I was at a funeral Saturday, and when the monsignor greeted me, he said, 'My God, Bart, you have to do something about these gas prices!' " said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chief sponsor of the anti-gouging bill.

    Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) told her colleagues: "I can't go home, and I imagine none of you can, without saying we tried to do something."

    Many Republicans seemed prepared to support the anti-gouging bill despite a White House veto threat. The 284 House members, who voted for the bill, included 56 Republicans.

    The legislation would give federal authorities the power during presidentially declared energy emergencies to investigate and prosecute anyone selling fuel at a price that is "unconscionably excessive" or "indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions."

    The White House contends that the definition of gouging is vague and would make the law difficult to enforce. The administration also questioned the need for the legislation, noting that many states currently have price-gouging laws.

    During House debate, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said that if "pandemic price gouging" were going on, states with anti-gouging laws would be flooding the courts with complaints. Instead, he said, demand for oil is up. The markets were doing what markets do, he said, noting: "If you don't have more of it, prices are going to go up."

    But Stupak told his colleagues that they had a simple choice: "Vote to stand up for consumers, your constituents, who are paying record prices, or vote to protect big oil companies' enormous profits."

    Although anti-gouging legislation passed the House last year, it died in the Senate. This year, a similar anti-gouging bill has cleared a Senate committee.

    The measure would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate complaints of price gouging and punish violators. Penalties would call for as many as 10 years in prison and as much as a $2-million fine for an individual and a maximum $150-million fine for a company.

    Currently, the commission monitors gas prices for violations of antitrust laws but has no authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of price gouging.

    Some question whether the measure would do much good.

    "There may be some very regional, very specific instances of rogue behavior," Paul Sankey, energy analyst for Deutsche Bank, said in congressional testimony last week.

    But he said no company was "stupid enough to try and make money by gouging the U.S. consumer."

    "The simple fact is they don't need to right now," Sankey said. "Frankly, they're making so much money just by the nature of the market that what you want to do is let the market continue to operate in its own good way to allow higher gasoline prices to moderate demand, hopefully without damaging the U.S. economy too much."

    Opposing the measure, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Assn. warned that every link in the chain of distribution -- right down to the local gas station owner -- would be in what it called a Catch-22 of having to set a price for its gasoline and hope that no one deemed it "excessively unconscionable."

    As soon as the Senate completes debate on an immigration bill after the Memorial Day recess, it is expected to take up a package of energy measures aimed at reducing both U.S. dependence on foreign oil and global warming pollution, including a controversial measure that would raise vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

    Some of the provisions enjoy bipartisan support and are likely to pass, such as a proposal to mandate 36 billion gallons of homegrown alternative fuels to be added to the nation's fuel supply annually by 2022, up from 5 billion gallons today. That is in line with President Bush's goal of reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years.

    The U.S. consumes nearly 21 million barrels of oil a day, about 60% of which is imported.

    The energy legislation comes just two years after Bush signed a big energy bill approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Unlike with that bill, Democrats these days are pushing conservation and development of alternative fuels


  2. #2
    Ducky's Avatar
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    Last time I heard, the oil companies don't have to report what their actual operation costs are, so how can we tell when we're being screwed? I know there's a LOT more than gas that comes out of a barrel, and every single bit of get gets sold after refining. But how much does that refining cost?
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  3. #3
    213th's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ducky View Post
    Last time I heard, the oil companies don't have to report what their actual operation costs are, so how can we tell when we're being screwed? I know there's a LOT more than gas that comes out of a barrel, and every single bit of get gets sold after refining. But how much does that refining cost?
    Obviously it doesn't cost that much; the oil companies are posting record profits nearly every quarter...hmm...something doesn't add up.
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  4. #4
    BEB
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    The White House contends that the definition of gouging is vague and would make the law difficult to enforce. The administration also questioned the need for the legislation, noting that many states currently have price-gouging laws.
    Feel-good legislation granting the Federal Government more powers it should not have and costing the taxpayers even more money to investigate bogus claims. Nothing more than a few more votes for incumbents next election.

    That is unless stations get gun shy and even more close during holiday weekends. Margins on the gas aren't that great in the first place and employees usually want overtime to work a holiday whether they celebrate it or not.

    And all at the whim of whoever happens to be President at the moment.

    The legislation would give federal authorities the power during presidentially declared energy emergencies to investigate and prosecute anyone selling fuel at a price that is "unconscionably excessive" or "indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions."
    Bet President Hillary would find fuel prices "unconscionably excessive" most of the time. Thanks Congress. Now go on vacation, brag about yourselves and when you come back shred this.

 

 

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