STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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By Mr. SANTORUM:
S. 1868. A bill to ensure gasoline affordability and security; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Gasoline Affordability and Security, GAS, Act. With the average price of gasoline at $2.86 a gallon in Pennsylvania and the national average even higher, conditions are ripe for Congress to critically examine why prices are rising and act to address those factors we can control. While we have little influence over OPEC, events in oil-exporting countries or growing demand in other nations, we can take steps to expand our shrunken refining capacity, diversify our transportation fuel supply and reduce demand.
Though critical for our Nation's energy security, the benefits of many Federal policies will take some time to realize. For this reason, my bill combines consumer protection provisions with proposals incentivizing innovative technology and conservation.
Consumers are understandably concerned that they are being taken advantage of at the pump. My bill will protect consumers by distinguishing retailers engaging in predatory business activities from those simply responding to market conditions beyond their control. Under my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, is directed to define ``price gouging'' and set rules that they will have the authority to enforce. This provision would be effective in times of a declared energy emergency and would not be limited to a specific geographic area in which a major disaster occurs. My constituents can vigorously attest to the fact that the effects of a natural disaster on gasoline prices are not confined to that region. The damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has affected consumers' pocketbooks nationwide.
And to better inform consumers, the FTC will be required to make available a list disclosing the name of any entity penalized under the Federal price gouging prohibition.
Twenty-eight States currently have price gouging laws on the books. In an effort to further assist States to tackle this issue, the GAS Act also directs the FTC to create a task force that will aid any state requesting assistance with the investigation of potential price gouging and provide technical assistance in reviewing or establishing state price gouging laws.
High prices are often not the result of price gouging, and consumers have a right to know what they're paying for in a gallon of gasoline. This information is available through the Energy Information Association, EIA. But because many Americans do not have Internet access or may not be able to easily extract this data, my bill encourages the EIA to disseminate, in a manner suitable for posting, information regarding the cost components of a gallon of gasoline to individuals selling gas or diesel fuel. Retailers may then display this information for their customers.
One important strategy to combat rising fuel prices is to diversify our fuel supply. This can be accomplished through use of coal, a resource plentiful in my State of Pennsylvania and in other regions of the country. Coal-to-liquid fuel technology now enables us to use this resource in an environmentally friendly way that can greatly benefit our economy and create hundreds of jobs in Pennsylvania alone. I am proud to be a longtime supporter of this technology and other clean coal initiatives. In 2001, I was able to secure language to enable a Pennsylvania-based coal and energy company to compete for a Clean Coal Power Initiative, CCPI, grant, and I was pleased to secure a provision in the Energy bill earlier this year that helped make this project a reality. My legislation will further encourage the production of this clean fuel by dedicating funds from the CCPI to at least one additional project.
Another way all Americans can help reduce fuel prices is to reduce gasoline consumption. But the reality is that cutting back on gas, which we need to perform responsibilities as basic as going to work and getting to the grocery store, is not easy. To help encourage conservation, I am proposing a tax credit for employees who telecommute from home and for employers who make that possible. With today's advanced technology, telework should be a part of the 21st century workplace. Forty percent of our Nation's jobs are already compatible with telecommuting. It creates the best of all worlds for both employers and employees, while reducing gas consumption and emissions.
President Bush recently called on Federal agencies to cut back on unnecessary travel and look for other ways to conserve fuel. The legislative branch should make a concerted effort to do the same. We cannot expect the American people to make sacrifices that we ourselves are not willing to make. Accordingly, my bill includes language to urge Congress and legislative branch employees to conserve transportation fuel by whatever means practicable, and as a part of these efforts, promote teleworking.
It is my hope that Congress will take a hard look at this country's fuel supply and will act decisively to make us less reliant on foreign sources. This Act contains steps we can take now to protect consumers and conserve fuel, while moving towards our goal of lower prices and energy independence.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of legislation titled: the ``Gasoline Affordability and Security Act'' be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows: