CONSUMER-FIRST ENERGY ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - June 10, 2008)
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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from New Mexico.
I have sought recognition to state my reasons for opposing the motion to proceed to cloture because this bill has too many facets. It was my hope that the majority leader would have separated this bill into the component parts. I cannot support legislation which would impede exploration for oil, which is what part of this bill is. But there are parts of this bill which are very important, and they ought to be taken up separately--for example, the legislation that defines and establishes penalties for price gouging by the oil and gas industry. It increases regulation of oil futures markets, and it includes the provision to eliminate the antitrust exemption for OPEC countries.
It does not have to be said on the floor of the Senate that enormously serious problems exist today with the price of oil and with the price of gasoline at the pump. The newspapers are full of it. It is an atrocious situation that is happening, and we desperately need relief.
There are very substantial indicators that a good bit of this problem is caused by price gouging. The legislation ought to be separated out so that we act on that. There are significant indicators that the oil futures market is causing speculators to jack up the price of oil. There ought to be regulation on that. We ought to take it up separately. When it comes to the antitrust exemption for the OPEC countries, it is atrocious. A few of these countries get together in a room, they lower production, and that increases prices. That bill was passed by the Senate with 70 votes. It has been passed by the House of Representatives. We ought to be taking that up separately. If we took up these measures separately, we would have an opportunity to give some relief to the American people.
Candidly, it is incomprehensible to me why we are not taking up the cost of oil and the cost of gas at the pump, to try to alleviate the pressure on the American people--and for that matter, worldwide. If we were to eliminate the OPEC antitrust exemption--to which they are not entitled; it is not a sovereign immunity issue, it is a commercial transaction--we have the authority to do that. One Federal judge has already upheld that approach. If we worked on the approach, if we worked on what the traders are doing on speculation, we would have some real effect. We are not too busy to take up this issue, aside from a few minutes on the Senate floor. There is no reason it has to be joined with what is obviously a poison pill, where you talk about acting against the oil and gas industry to discourage exploration. We know exploration is vitally necessary, so I cannot support this legislation in its present form, but it ought to be divided. We ought to take up the antitrust exemption separately.
We ought to move ahead on a matter of pressing importance. There is nothing more important for the American people, for the people of the world. I urge the majority leader, who sets the schedule, to reconsider and separate these bill so we can act in a meaningful and important way.
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