McCaskill Votes to Advance Bill to Lower Gas Prices
Missourians are now paying more than twice for gas than at the beginning of the Bush Administration
Summertime for many means packing up the car for an old-fashioned road trip, whether it's a cross-country journey or a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. Regardless of where Missourians are going this summer or how far they are travelling, they have one thing in common: they cringe every time they pull up a gas station. But with gas prices expected to continue climbing throughout the summer, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today voted in favor of moving forward on the Consumer First Energy Act of 2008, legislation that would enact key reforms to make fuel more affordable for Americans in the future. The vote, which required 60 for passage, failed 51 to 43.
"We have a choice. We can do nothing or we can work as hard as we know how, to do something. And if the choice is to do nothing, then I hope the people of this country rise up and scream like they've never screamed before. How dare us do nothing? It takes a lot of nerve," McCaskill said today on the Senate floor.
Since President Bush took office, oil prices have quadrupled and gas prices have more than doubled, putting increasing strain on American families. Missouri households are now paying $2,830 more per year for gasoline than when President Bush took office and are now paying an average of $4,719 per year to fill their gas tanks. Meantime, oil companies are making record profits while tax payers continue to subsidize their industry with enormous tax breaks.
"This is like the twilight zone. This can't be real. We can't honestly be standing here and saying to the American people, it's a great idea for us to keep giving them your money when they're making $83,000 a minute," McCaskill said in her floor speech.
The Consumer First Energy Act of 2008 will:
* Roll back tax breaks for oil companies and invest in renewable energy. This bill would roll back $17 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies and instead invest those taxpayer dollars to improve consumer price protection, renewable energy development and energy efficiency technology through a designated Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund.
* Force oil companies to pay their fair share in taxes. Since the Bush Administration came into office, the five biggest oil companies have made over half a trillion dollars in profit. This legislation would create a 25 percent windfall profits tax on companies that fail to invest in increased capacity and renewable energy sources. The proceeds of the tax will be invested in consumer price protection, renewable energy development and energy efficiency technologies.
* Protect Consumers from Price Gouging. The Federal government's authority and enforcement actions are inadequate to protect consumers from artificially created spikes in retail gas prices are inadequate. This bill would give the president the authority to declare an energy emergency should there be a shortage, disruption or significant pricing anomalies in the oil market. Once an emergency is declared, setting an "unconscionably excessive price" during such an emergency would be deemed unlawful and subject to civil penalties.
* Stop Market Price Speculation. Failure to regulate the oil futures market has lead to exorbitant speculation. This legislation establishes two key limitations on speculation. First, the bill prevents traders of U.S. crude oil from routing transactions through off-shore markets to evade speculative limits and sets forth reporting requirements. Second, the bill requires the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to set a substantial increase in the margin requirement for all oil futures trades, contracts or transactions.
* Stand Up to OPEC. OPEC's near-monopoly control over oil prices has lead to record oil prices. This bill allows the U.S. Attorney General to take action against any country or company that is colluding to set the price of oil, natural gas, or any other petroleum product. Enacting this provision would make it clear to nations that participate in the oil cartel that engaging in conduct designed to fix the price of oil is illegal under U.S. law. As such, nations concerned with maintaining good diplomatic relations with the U.S. will likely be reluctant to blatantly act in a way that is counter to U.S. law.