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Democrats said on Thursday that they would propose legislation to allow state and federal agencies to “go after” oil companies over what Democratic lawmakers continue to describe as market manipulation and price gouging at the pump that is ripping off Americans.
In a news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “Big Oil has profiteered and exploited the marketplace.”
“They are hoarding the windfall while keeping prices high at the pump,” Pelosi added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, for his part, said that the COVID crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have left American consumers “vulnerable to market manipulation and price gouging.”
“Big Oil companies are using both these issues for price gouging and market manipulation to cash in,” Schumer said, comparing oil companies to “vultures” that booked record profits last year and used the COVID and Ukraine tragedies for market manipulation.
Democratic leaders did not say when the legislation could be ready or put to a vote in Congress.
Gasoline prices in the United States are at an eight-year high, as international crude prices jumped above $100 a barrel following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since gasoline prices started rising at the end of last year, Democrats began pointing the finger at Big Oil, blaming oil firms for ripping off Americans at the pump while lining their own pockets.
The Biden Administration’s insistence that oil companies are manipulating the market led to a hearing at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce earlier this month, at which CEOs at the biggest oil corporations in America were grilled about their role in setting the gasoline prices. While Democrats continued to accuse oil companies of price gouging, the top executives of Exxon, Chevron, BP America, Shell USA, Devon Energy, and Pioneer Natural Resources found themselves explaining the basics of economics and how crude oil production and fuel distribution work in a free market.
“I have seen statements in the press suggesting that Chevron and other oil and gas companies are responsible for the increase in fuel prices. I want to be absolutely clear: we do not control the market price of crude oil or natural gas, nor of refined products like gasoline and diesel fuel, and we have no tolerance for price gouging,” Chevron’s CEO Michael Wirth told the hearing in early April.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com