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National News

Price-Gouging Prevention Bill Heads to Senate Despite Opposition

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Reinette LeJeune

Gas prices continue to surge upwards throughout the country with most rates between $4 per gallon and $5 per gallon – and even $6 per gallon in some areas. While consumers continue bearing the burdens of these price hikes – not only at the pump, but also in shipping costs for anything transported by truck, train, or ship – big oil and gas companies continue making historic profits. 

The rising gasoline prices are thanks, in large part, to the jump in oil prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the latest catalyst to push crude oil demand higher, though prices were already on the rise ahead of the war. Before COVID-19, energy producers were already cutting back on investments towards less profitable projects that operated at lower prices in response to institutional shareholders demanding higher returns. With the arrival of the pandemic, energy producers slashed output further after the need for petroleum products fell drastically. Now, with fragile economies reopening and the demand for oil is surging, consumers have found themselves at the mercy of oil and gas executives. 

Alarmed by the ever-growing gap between the industry’s earnings and consumers’ struggles, lawmakers introduced The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, which aims to make predatory price hikes unlawful and expand federal authority to investigate alleged price gouging. Although the bill has since passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, voting was tight at 217 to 207. Republicans, along with four Democrats, opposed the bill – including the entire Republican delegation from Wisconsin. Now the bill heads to the Senate, where a similar bill is pending but faces steeper odds amid a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

ExxonMobil, Chevron and other major oil companies announced surging profits totaling more than $40 billion in the first quarter of the year, a fact Democrats repeatedly cited in floor debate. Many of the companies are spending billions on stock buybacks and dividend payments to investors, despite claims from lobbyists that these same companies are struggling.