September 14, 2005

Wyden, Fellow Democrats Call for Safety Measuresto Protect Consumers Against Gas Price Gouging

WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today joined fellow Democratic leaders to fight gas price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Measures called for today by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Wyden and others would give the President the authority to declare a national energy emergency and strengthen the hand of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when fighting illegal price gouging that hits Oregonians and all consumers hard at the pumps.Before Hurricane Katrina, years of market manipulation by oil companies artificially inflated prices on the West Coast of the United States; Wyden has documented both their anti-competitive practices and the Federal Trade Commissions refusal to act on consumers behalf. Following the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, skyrocketing gas prices are having an effect all across the economy, squeezing the budgets of American families, hurting farmers and businesses alike.Its taking the help of all Americans to recover from Hurricane Katrina, from kids with lemonade stands to families making donations and taking in strangers all were asking the oil industry to do is not to gouge consumers, to stop manipulating the market as they have for years, said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). If the oil companies wont step up in this time of crisis, the FTC needs to step in, and Congress has a duty to make sure that happens.Proposals discussed by the Senators at a Washington press conference today include:" Congress should create emergency authority at FTC to investigate gasoline price gouging if the President makes an emergency declaration in consultation with the Energy Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Right now this authority is only available in certain states that have enacted anti-price gouging legislation." The FTC, an independent regulatory commission, should conduct the investigation and would be authorized to fine companies for price gouging versus the more traditional remedies such as cease and desist orders and requiring that companies disgorge profits after the fact. Definition of price gouging would be done through FTC rulemaking. There should be no preemption of state law." The FTC should create a web site and toll free number so consumers could report price gouging.According to data from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA), national gasoline prices have been averaging about $3.07 a gallonor $1.22 higher than last year, a more than 60 percent increase. In Oregon, gasoline prices hit an all-time statewide high last Friday.Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also released a report on the projected economic impacts of Hurricane Katrina. The CBO report found that a 40 percent increase in prices during September could impact national GDP during the third and fourth quarters of this year, and called the spike in prices a temporary redistribution of income from consumers of gasoline to the stockholders of refiners in other words, reporting that money is moving from consumers pockets to oil refiners profit margins.For more information on Wydens investigations of anti-competitive practices in the oil industry in the years preceding Hurricane Katrina, visit