Lawmakers trade jabs over blame for high gas prices

U.S.

(NewsNation) —Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, pinned blame for rising gas prices nationwide on big oil companies, saying they’ve reaped “record” profits through market manipulation.

Pelosi and Schumer introduced a plan on Thursday that would give the Federal Trade Commission and states more power to regulate oil companies for perceived instances of market manipulation, raising possible fines to $2 million per offense.

“It’s time for the FTC to roll up its sleeves and drill down on what’s going on at the big oil companies,” Schumer said.

Pelosi further asserted that high gas prices, which averaged $4.14/gallon nationwide this week, were also responsible for price rises on other consumer goods.

“The price of gas and the price of oil have an impact on the price of many other things, including the price of food,” Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., center, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., right, and Rep. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., left, speak during a press conference about gas prices, Thursday, April 28, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Inflation is at its highest level in 40 years, food costs are up 8.8% from a year ago and energy costs have risen 32%. The average home price has skyrocketed to $375,000.

Republican lawmakers were not buying Schumer and Pelosi’s argument it was oil companies to blame. Rather, they said it was the fault of Democrats gas prices have spiked and accused Democrats of playing politics by assigning blame to oil companies.

“What you’re seeing is a political response by members of the Democrat Party,” said Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. “This administration is doing everything they can to keep any kind of fossil fuel from getting out of the ground.”

Moore Capito raised $251,764 in campaign financing from oil and gas companies between 2015 and 2020 according to campaign finance reports.

Other Republicans blamed President Joe Biden.

“My Democratic colleagues are doubling down on their blatant blame-shifting for political cover,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. “The American people know this isn’t price gouging or Putin’s price hike. It’s a Biden price hike since the day he took office.”

McMorris also collected campaign donations from the oil and gas industry totaling $154,504 between 2019 and 2020.

Executives from six oil companies, which reported combined profits of $77 billion in 2021 testified before Congress, saying it was the global markets, not them that determined gas prices.

Still, Democrats contended oil companies were “ripping off the American people.”

“There’s no excuse for big oil companies to profiteer, to price gouge or exploit families,” Pelosi said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks about gas prices during a press conference, Thursday, April 28, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Schumer pressed the issue back on Republicans, putting them between American consumers and oil companies.

“Republicans will face a dilemma: Which side are they on?” Schumer said. “On the consumer and lowering gas prices? Or on the side of the big oil?”

Schumer’s argument bounced off Republicans who maintained the key to lowering gas prices was not regulating oil companies further.

“America is the world’s leading producer of oil and gas, and we should act like it. We can produce significantly more energy than we do today and unleash the vast resources under our feet,″ Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., told Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi told NewsNation Thursday there were other factors, like employee shortages, in addition to geopolitical tension in Russia and Ukraine, leading to gas price hikes.

“Part of the issue we have is the supply side,” Joshi said. “COVID restrictions, fewer workers able to refine and produce gas so we have a constriction of supply, as well. As we see the economy and workers coming back to work and the industry getting what it needs to rev up again, that could lead to some relief at the gas pump.”

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