March 14, 2005

As OPEC Reveals More on Plans for Oil Prices, Still Time to Act for American Consumers

Senator urges White House, Energy Dept. to fight for families, businessesas oil and gasoline prices rise; OPEC just one area of concern

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released the following statement today in advance of Wednesday's March 16 OPEC meeting, and in light of the Administration's continued inaction on behalf of American consumers struggling with high gasoline prices. Wyden is seeking relief for American families and businesses that can expect to pay an average $2.15 per gallon for gasoline during the upcoming high driving season. OPEC's likely action at its Wednesday meeting is the first of several areas of concern that should be addressed. His statement follows: "The news this morning indicates that while OPEC will not cut production at their meeting this week, the cartel will seek to lock in a higher minimum price for oil in an effort to preserve the crude oil boom that's busting American consumers at the gasoline pump right now. "Twelve days ago Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman told me that he had not called OPEC to do what this Administration promised it would do: use the political capital of the United States to pressure OPEC to ‘open the spigots' and aid American consumers when oil and gasoline prices are high. Now there are only two days left before OPEC meets to set prices that will affect every American consumer. This Administration has failed to pressure OPEC. There is still no indication that this Administration will stand up for us on the world oil market. "I am not sure what it will take to galvanize the necessary response from this White House. Its own Energy Information Administration blames tight supplies of oil worldwide for sending prices soaring. Its own Commerce Secretary, John Snow, has said that the trend of high oil prices may soon hamper the nation's economic progress. Major industries that are already in trouble are feeling the hurt: one airline, Delta, has said fuel prices may push them over the edge into bankruptcy. And that same Energy Department office, the Energy Information Administration, reported last week that the average price of gasoline - the average - is expected to hit $2.15 per gallon in April and stay there. "Even if no one in the White House will speak up for American consumers on the world energy market, as the President promised during the 2000 campaign that he would do, I will continue to speak up for them here at home. I expect that the White House will let the OPEC meeting take place without comment, but there will be plenty more to tackle when that's over. Our country currently exports one million barrels of oil per day to oil-rich regions of the world, even as we import 10 million barrels. U.S. oil companies remain unpunished for the anti-competitive practices that artificially inflate gasoline prices, hurting American businesses and consumers every day. Believe me, these are issues that I will not let go unaddressed while American businesses and American families are getting clobbered at the corner station in the coming weeks. "When gasoline prices go up to this degree, family finances suffer - and not just at the gas pump, but at the grocery store and the department store too. As businesses pay more to transport their goods, consumers pay more for those goods at every turn. Even after they raise their prices, some businesses have to cut jobs or benefits to stay afloat. The argument to contain these runaway oil and gasoline prices is not a political one. It's an argument that we need to stick up for American families and businesses when the going gets tough. "The current rise in gasoline prices is absolutely and inextricably linked to the surge in crude oil prices. They are still well above $50 per barrel. They are expected to remain so. Even as OPEC says they will not cut production so that oil prices may go down, they are looking this week at setting a new, higher minimum price per barrel to increase the chances of crude oil prices staying high. OPEC is looking out for OPEC. Who is looking out for American consumers? "Less than two days from now, OPEC meets. The silence from this Administration and its Energy Department is deafening. It is still my hope that they would choose in the next 24 hours to break that silence on behalf of every American consumer. The American people deserve better, and I will keep fighting until they get a better response on this crucial economic issue."