Empower Play

N.Y. county politicians want local stations to provide oil price information

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- A number of Democratic Dutchess County legislators and candidates have called for the county to adopt a Gasoline Consumer Empowerment Law, which would mandate by January 1 of next year that all gas stations in the county would have to display a poster and have handouts for customers with information from the federal government about oil prices and oil companies.

County Legislator Joel Tyner (D) and Democratic legislator candidates Richard Dennison and Vicky Perry held a press conference Monday in front of a Mobil station in Poughkeepsie, [image-nocss] N.Y., from which they walked a block and a half to the County Office Building to make final statements there.

Tyner and his colleagues said in a statement released at the press conference: Those in county government need to be proactive on this to protect drivers as well as county taxpayers. We need to keep the price of gas down so county property and sales taxes don't go upour county's own cars and trucks obviously need gas; we also need to avoid, as much as possible, any increases to the cost of running our county's LOOP bus system as well."

Tyner said the public needs to be made aware of certain things. Actually a few months after Bush took office, the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] came out with a report saying that oil companies intentionally took supplies of gasoline off the market in the summer of 2000 as a profit maximizing strategy', he said, according to a report by the Mid-Hudson News.

To read the FTC report, which found no evidence of price collusion among oil companies, but which identified several factors that contributed to gasoline price spikes, including decisions by some firms to maximize their profits (curtailing production, keeping available supply off the market), click here.

Tyner said the top five oil companies made more than $200 billion in after-tax profits over the last four years. He claimed the profits were made at the expense of American consumers.

He told CSP Daily News, The mainstream media has completely ignored how even the president's own [FTC] reported to all of us in March of 2001 how oil companies intentionally withheld supplies of gasoline from the market in the summer of 2001 as a tactic to drive up prices as a profit-maximizing strategy.' I actually think there has been a lot of misplaced anger and frustration directed at individual gas station owners because gas prices have jumped so much. I've often seen informational handouts at gas stations about why gas prices are so highbut not with the information I've suggested. I think it's time.

He added that the goal of the legislation is to educate the taxpayers of Dutchess County on how skyrocketing gas prices drive up their [federal and state taxes,] county taxes, school taxes, town taxes, city taxes and village taxesand to educate them on just how much money the oil companies have been making. I do not seek to punish individual gas station or convenience store ownersI'm just looking for a way to hold the oil companies responsible for what they're doing to our economy.

But according to a separate report by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the [oil and natural gas] industry's earnings are very much in line with other industries and often they are lower. This fact is not well understood, in part, because reports typically focus on only half the storythe profits earned. Profits reflect the size of an industry, but they're not necessarily a good reflection of financial performance. Profit margins or earnings per dollar of sales (measured as net income divided by sales) provide a more relevant and accurate measure of a company or an industry's health, and also provide a useful way of comparing financial performance between industries large and small.

To read API's report, Second-Quarter 2005 Earnings Compared to Other Industries, click here.

Tyner and his colleagues are also calling on the county legislature to formally request that Congress pass H.R. 2070, the Gas Price Spike Act, which would be "a windfall tax on all industry profits above reasonable levels.

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