Pelosi hammers gas companies for consumer ‘exploitation’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday went after the nation’s largest oil companies, accusing the industry of “exploiting” consumers with sky-high gas prices even as the same companies are reporting record profits this year.
“This is a major exploitation of the consumer, because this is a product the consumer must have,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
The leap in prices at the pump, part of a larger inflationary spike affecting a host of consumer goods, has dogged President Biden and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, who are scrambling for ways to reverse the trend ahead of November’s midterm elections.
As part of that effort, House Democrats will vote next week on legislation empowering the Biden administration to issue an emergency declaration barring oil companies from setting gas and home energy prices deemed to be “unconscionably excessive” or indicative that “the seller is exploiting the circumstances related to an energy emergency to increase prices unreasonably.”
Sponsored by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), both of whom are facing competitive reelection contests, the proposal would grant new authority to both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to scrutinize the methods by which fuel prices are set. Companies found to violate the emergency order would be subject to civil penalties.
Recent financial numbers from the nation’s largest oil companies have fueled the Democrats’ eagerness to target the industry.
For the first three months of the year, ExxonMobil reported $5.5 billion in profits, more than twice the figure from a year ago. BP reported $6.2 billion in profits for the quarter, up from $2.6 billion in the first three months of 2021. And Chevron said it pulled in $6.3 billion, versus $1.4 billion over the same span last year.
Gas prices vary by region, but they’ve risen steadily across the country over the past year. The current national average, according to AAA, is $4.42 per gallon.
Since oil companies are reporting enormous profits, the Democrats argue, they can easily afford to pass the windfall on to consumers instead of shareholders — particularly amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has only exacerbated the volatility of global fuel markets.
“While families are struggling to pay higher prices at the pump, oil and gas companies are recording record profits, with the seven largest oil companies announcing [stock] buy-backs that could total $41 billion this year alone,” Pelosi said.
“Again and again we see gas prices rise, sometimes when the cost of oil goes down,” she continued. “Price-gouging needs to be stopped.”
The comments arrive a day after the Senate confirmed Biden’s nominee to join the FTC, Alvaro Bedoya, a liberal law professor at Georgetown University whose placement lends the commission a new progressive lean. The vote was split squarely along party lines, 50-50, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie.
Earlier in the week, House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that next week’s vote on the Schrier-Porter bill “does not preclude doing other” bills
“Other options are under consideration,” he said.
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