Consumer groups urge Senate to investigate gasoline price fixing

April 26, 2006
Consumer Groups Urge Senate to Act Now to Address Skyrocketing Gas Prices
(Washington, D.C) – Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America today sent the following letter to the full Senate urging immediate action on the supplemental appropriations bill to fund efforts to investigate gasoline price fixing and monopolistic behavior, as well as support comprehensive solutions to our nation’s energy problems.
Contact: Anne Wright, CU, 202-238-9256; Mark Cooper, CFA, 301-384-2204
Dear Senator:
We at Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America are writing to urge Senate action to address the critical problem of rising gasoline prices. We have now been through eight cycles of increases in energy prices and the cost to consumers has mounted into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Congress and the Administration must take the lead on addressing the root cause of rising prices and find long-term solutions to the nation’s dependence on oil.
There has been much talk in the press and on the floor of the Senate this week about the need for Congress and the Administration to address the complex issues surrounding rising gas prices. We urge the Senate to take the lead on providing emergency dollars to fund federal agencies to investigate potential price fixing, illegal trading of energy futures, monopolistic behavior, as well as adequate and honest reporting of supply and pricing information to determine their impact on current gas prices. We believe such efforts are long overdue.
Bills have been introduced this Congress that merit prompt action by the Senate. Chief among these is legislation introduced by Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee that targets investigations to examine past antitrust regulations and their applications to the oil industry both globally and domestically, and identifies unilateral actions to raise prices as a significant problem. It would also create a joint Federal-State task force to investigate information sharing by every sector of the oil industry that could contribute to price manipulation, and make clear that foreign states are not immune from anti-trust laws. In addition, we support legislation that puts in place mechanisms that prevent price manipulation and fraud in the energy markets, recaptures excessive industry profits so that they can be reinvested to expand refinery capacity, and encourages aggressive strategies to reduce oil consumption.
America houses three percent of the world’s oil reserves and yet we are consuming twenty-five percent of the world’s oil production. Congressional and Administration action to address rising fuel costs must also include a vigorous program to reduce American oil dependence, with clearly defined targets for reductions in oil consumption. We have the technology to raise the fuel efficiency of vehicles and to expand the number of options for consumers. Not only would fuel efficient vehicles reduce demand pressures, consumers would capture important savings in fuel costs. Equally important is providing funding for the research, production and distribution of bio-fuels.
Consumers are looking for leadership on issues affecting rising gas prices and Congress and the Administration have the opportunity to take action. We support efforts on the supplemental appropriations bill to begin to tackle our critical energy problems, and also look forward to working on more comprehensive energy solutions in the weeks ahead.
Mark Cooper
Research Director
Consumer Federation of America
Ann Wright
Senior Policy Analyst
Consumers Union