Washington, DC—Senate Democrats today discussed their commitment to punishing price-gougers at the gas pumps and other energy issues facing the country at a press conference today. Senators Maria Cantwell, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Byron Dorgan, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar expressed their support for two measures, one that will punish price-gougers and another that increases our supply of biofuels.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that he will move forward with these bills after the Senate finishes its debate on immigration. Reid said the legislation would help protect consumers, increase our energy independence, strengthen our economy and reduce global warming.
Democrats believe the oil industry should start investing in America by expanding refining capacity; producing clean and renewable fuels in America; and putting our national security, economy and environment ahead of profits. In contrast, this Administration has made it a priority to give tax breaks to oil and gas companies even as prices have doubled and oil company profits have soared.
“Gas prices in our country are within three cents of becoming the highest ever recorded, and they’re still rising,” said Cantwell, who introduced the legislation to make gas price gouging a federal crime and put in place tough new federal protections to guard against market manipulation by oil and gas companies. “With summer around the corner and some predicting prices could pass the four dollar mark, we need better consumer protections on the books. We’ve sat through years of price shocks, with families unable to have any confidence that rising prices are fair. We need to act now to protect our economy and help families stay within their budgets.”
Said Durbin: “We’ve been here before. As the price of gas continues to rise, the Bush Administration’s inaction is again hurting consumers across the country. From punishing price-gouging, expanding refining capacity, and increasing production of renewable fuels, we are taking concrete steps forward to reduce the burden these prices place on American workers and families.”
“Americans continue to face staggering prices at the pump, while oil companies are reaping record profits,” Schumer said. “We’ve got to end the cycle of giving tax breaks to oil companies and start making them more accountable by protecting consumers from price gouging and actively investigating why oil refineries are operating so far below capacity, leaving consumers to bear the brunt of higher prices.”
Said Dorgan: “We learned in the Enron scandal that energy markets are not only vulnerable to market manipulation, they have, in fact been manipulated at a cost of billions of dollars to consumers. And we learned after Hurricane Katrina, that there are some who will take advantage of unfortunate circumstances to price gouge. Clearly, we need to better investigate energy markets to detect fraud, abuse or manipulation. The amendment Senator Cantwell and I sponsored in the Commerce Committee yesterday will help us do that and allow us to crack down on price gouging.”
“Since President Bush has been in the White House, the price of gas at the pump has nearly doubled,” Sanders said. “The time is long overdue for the United States Congress to summon up the courage to stand up to the oil industry and to say very clearly, ‘Stop ripping off the American people.’”
Said Klobuchar: “Across this country, families’ budgets are being stretched thin with no safeguard in sight. The cost of a gallon of gas has increased 20 cents in the last two weeks, to a record of $3.07 and oil companies are raking in record profits – enough is enough. It isn’t right when oil companies can gouge consumers – not only hurting ordinary families, but also harming other businesses that see their own costs go up dramatically. The ultimate solution is to promote renewable resources that lessen our dependence on foreign oil – we worked to that end yesterday by increasing the number of flexible fuel engine vehicles on our roads and miles per gallon requirements across the board.”