THE RISING PRICE OF GAS
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Mr. DeFAZIO. As I speak on the floor today, across America citizens are being gouged at the gas pump once again. Every year, as certain as Memorial Day is celebrated at the end of this month, the oil industry jacks up prices.
On the west coast in Oregon, I paid $3.43 a gallon for regular in Springfield. My colleague, Greg Walden, paid $3.99 on the east side of the mountains. The local paper accounts for this by saying ``unexpected refinery maintenance.'' Hmm. Maybe they could schedule maintenance at a different time of year. No, that wouldn't be quite so profitable for the industry. In fact, the industry has been colluding for more than a decade to close down refinery capacity so they can have these wonderful price spikes and gouge American consumers.
There was an industry memo back then saying how the refinery sector wasn't particularly profitable, but through mergers the industry has managed to do away with more than 100 refineries. Now we have a refinery shortage. And if they just close one down to sweep the floors, the price of gas goes up 20 cents a gallon and the industry execs cry all the way to the bank and to their bonuses. This has to stop. We have to get back in charge of this industry. We've got to break up these huge conglomerates. Start with a moratorium on further mergers. Break 'em up. Impose a windfall profits tax. Unless they invest in more refinery capacity, unless they invest in new fuels or energy efficiency, confiscate the money from them through a windfall profits tax which they have taken from the American consumers through price-gouging and reinvest it to bring down prices and make this country more energy-efficient in the future. We need both a short-term and a long-term strategy to deal with this industry.
We have to take on the OPEC cartel. Now, this President is all about free trade. All about free trade. He wants more free trade agreements. Seven of the members of OPEC are in the World Trade Organization, highly touted by this President as a rules-based trade organization to promote free trade. They are conspiring and colluding among themselves and with Big Oil to jack up the price of oil. That's illegal under the WTO. Why won't President Bush file a complaint against OPEC? Perhaps because he's a little too tight with the Saudis, the royal family that runs that country and others. And they obviously, as well as industry execs, are profiting immensely from this situation.
We need to, as I said earlier, ban further mergers. My bill would establish a commission to study market power and suggest remedies to that. To me the simplest remedy is antitrust and to break up some of these giant conglomerates and again begin to bring a little bit of competition back to this industry.
The windfall profits tax I mentioned earlier, impose a windfall profits tax on these folks and take that money and reinvest it in energy efficiency and new fuels and research unless they will spend the money on energy efficiency, new fuels, and refinery capacity which is needed in this country.
If we don't take action, it isn't going to happen. ExxonMobil is making $4.6 million per hour, $109 million per day, $3.2 billion a month and $40 billion last year. One corporation. Last quarter they set yet another record. And you can bet with the price-gouging going on today, they're going to set yet another record. Every quarter is a new record. But the President talks about free market forces. These aren't free market forces. These people are conspiring to gouge the American consumers and drive up prices at the pump. We need real price relief soon. This Congress must act and the President must stop stonewalling and protecting his friends both domestically and internationally who are involved in the oil cartel.