U.S. House Approves Bill to Combat ‘Price Gouging’ at the Pump

Republicans and oil industry groups call the legislation ‘unnecessary’
gas price leglislation
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass legislation on May 19 to stymie alleged price gouging by oil companies in response to rising prices at the pump.

The bill, if passed, would give the president the authority to declare an energy emergency making exploitive gasoline and fuel prices unlawful. The bill also directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to punish companies that price gouge on fuel.

“At a time when people across the country are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, Congress needs to be doing all it can to bring down costs for American families,” Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The measure was approved, 217-207. Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, along with four Democrats. The bill passed the House by a margin of 10 votes, but passage in the Senate will be more challenging with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Gas prices have reached a national average of $4.59, $1.55 higher than a year ago, according to AAA.

Republicans and industry groups called the bill misguided, saying there is no evidence of price gouging as gas stations set the price of gasoline at the pump depending on the local market, not major oil companies.

“H.R. 7688 fails to acknowledge the various complexities involved in the U.S. motor fuels production and distribution system, which actually determine the retail price of gasoline. These factors include the price of crude oil, a lack of sufficient refining capacity, the corn ethanol mandate, credit card swipe fees, taxes and more,” Rob Underwood, president of Energy Marketers of America (EMA), said in a statement. “The bill sponsors chose not to seek input from the retail motor fuel industry but push forward with unnecessary legislation that is not supported by facts.”

Gasoline prices rose late last year due to supply chain issues and increased demand as the economy began to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but prices have continued to spike since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. The United States has banned imports of Russian oil, and other countries are seeking alternatives to Russian energy, another factor driving prices up.

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