A piece of legislation that would ban excessive gasoline prices is headed for a vote in Congress next week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday afternoon.
The bill, known as the Price Gouging Prevention Act of 2022 and introduced by Democrat senators Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, and Democrat Representative Jan Schakowsky, comes in response to what Pelosi calls “a major exploitation” of gasoline consumers.
High gasoline prices continue to plague the current administration due to a well-known history of high gasoline prices dogging incumbents in the United States. So far, the United States has pleaded with OPEC and Brazil for additional oil output and has agreed to release millions of barrels of crude oil from emergency stockpiles—all to no avail.
Crude oil prices in the United States have decreased by $1 per barrel since the latest SPR release announcement, while gasoline prices have risen to new records, with the national average as of Thursday $4.418 per gallon. The latter has prompted the United States to chastise the industry for profit-taking and prioritizing shareholder returns instead of on increasing output.
The current bill would prevent gasoline price hikes during times of national energy emergencies and abnormal market disruptions—as declared by the President. If the bill were to pass, the FTC and state attorneys general would have the power to enforce a federal bad against excessive price increases and issue penalties, no matter where that seller is along the price chain. It would also increase company requirements for disclosing their pricing strategies in SEC filings.
It would also grant more funding to the FTC.
The legislation is not expected to garner sufficient Republican support.
“During COVID, Big Oil and those at the top of the food chain have used inflation to boost record profits while working families have paid the price. This legislation will shine a light on price hikes and help prevent big corporations from exploiting a period of inflation to gouge consumers with higher costs,” Senator Baldwin said.
U.S. Big Oil companies such as Exxon are indeed raking in higher profits—$23 billion for Exxon in 2021—although that follows a significant loss of $22.4 billion in 2020 as Covid-19 ravaged demand.