INTRODUCTION OF THE ENERGY PRICE DISCIPLINE ACT OF 2005 -- (Extensions of Remarks - October 20, 2005)
HON. FRANK A. LoBIONDO
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2005
Mr. LOBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the ``Energy Price Discipline Act of 2005.'' This timely and important piece of legislation will ensure that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the tools to investigate and strongly prosecute price gouging across the nation by those refining, selling, or shipping crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, or petroleum distillates.
Today, Americans are paying more than ever before for the fuel they need to run their cars and heat their homes. Even before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, consumers were paying almost a dollar more than they were a year ago for a gallon of gas. And in the days following this disaster, average gas price rose an additional 45 cents per gallon--with reported prices of nearly $6.00 at some stations in the affected areas.
And, as the days get shorter and the air gets colder, more and more people are worrying about how they are going to be able to heat their homes this winter. According to figures released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, households heating their homes with natural gas can expect to spend about 48 percent more, or an additional $350, on fuel this winter. Those with heating oil can expect a 32 percent increase, or on average about $378 more.
But as Americans look deeper into their wallets to put gas in their cars to get to work or to heat their homes, both oil companies and U.S. refineries are on track for record profits. I believe that consumers across the country should have the right to know that the prices they are struggling to pay are legitimate and that no one is profiting unjustly at their expense.
For this reason, I am introducing the ``Energy Price Discipline Act of 2005.'' This bill will give the FTC broad discretion to investigate and, if necessary, strongly prosecute whoever--whether it is a gas station owner, a petroleum company, or a refiner--is guilty of manipulating the price of crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, or petroleum distillates.
The ``Energy Price Discipline Act of 2005'' recognizes that in today's global economy consumers in states far removed from a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina may see the results of it in their energy prices--often for legitimate reasons, but sadly also as a result of price gouging. In my home State of New Jersey, residents voiced concerns over fair and honest treatment when purchasing gasoline for weeks before a federal emergency declaration was declared and state price gouging statutes were triggered.
For these reasons, the bill does not require a federal emergency declaration to be issued before the FTC could begin an investigation. Instead, the bill sets out specific factors for the FTC to use to determine whether the commodity is being sold at an unjust or unreasonable price. If the FTC makes the determination that price gouging exists, the bill ensures that the violator, whether an individual or a corporation, is subject to strong civil and criminal penalties.
Americans in every corner of the country are today being faced with unprecedented energy costs. We owe it to our constituents to ensure that no one is profiting unjustly at their expense. I urge my colleagues to speak for them and to support the ``Energy Price Discipline Act of 2005.''