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Stop Oil Company Price Gouging
Published on Saturday, October 29, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Stop Oil Company Price Gouging
by Congressman Bernie Sanders
 

Record-breaking fuel costs across the country are forcing millions of Americans to wonder how they will have enough money to heat their homes this winter or fill up their gas tanks to get to work in the morning. The Bush Administration is quick to claim that they are working to lower skyrocketing fuel prices but staggering profits by Big Oil have long made it clear that these price increases are the direct result of oil company greed, market manipulation, and an Administration content to let Big Oil pillage consumers at the pump.

The recent announcement that Exxon Mobil has earned the largest quarterly profit in the history of our nation makes it clear just how this bad oil company price gouging has become. Reports show that Exxon Mobil brought in a 3rd quarter profit of nearly $10 billion. This is the largest corporate quarterly profit ever, and more than $4 billion dollars more than the company brought in during the 3rd quarter of last year.

To put this in perspective, this means that Exxon Mobil hauled in more profits in three months than corporate behemoths Coca-Cola Co., Intel Corp. and Time Warner Inc. earn in an entire year.

And Exxon Mobil is not alone. ConocoPhillips Co. 3rd quarter profits increased by 89% from last year's level. Royal Dutch Shell's profits increased by 68%; and Marathon Oil's profits more than tripled. In fact, all of the major oil companies experienced record-breaking profits, bringing in an estimated $28 billion more in profits this year as compared to 2004.

These staggering profit margins come at a time when consumers are faced with overwhelming price increases for gas and home heating oil. The average price of a gallon of gasoline at the pump is more than $1 higher than it was just two years ago. The price increases for home heating fuel is equally daunting. The Department of Energy is currently predicting that prices for winter fuel oil, propane and natural gas will be 218% higher this year than they were in 2001.

These record-breaking prices are having a devastating impact on millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. Senior citizens and lower income individuals will go cold this winter and workers-especially those in rural areas like my state of Vermont-will lose a significant part of their pay checks if we do not stop this price gouging by Big Oil. And it's not just consumers that are affected. The high price of fuel is also hurting the trucking industry, aviation, small businesses, dairy farmers, tourism and, in fact, the entire American economy.

For many of us who have been demanding Congressional action to reign in skyrocketing gas prices, this clear evidence of price gouging by big oil comes as no surprise. In July Rep. Peter DeFazio and I introduced legislation that would stop major oil companies from making huge windfall profits on the backs of consumers, and provide long term solutions moving us away from fossil fuel and toward sustainable energy.

Instead of adopting these pro-consumer, pro-environment solutions, the House Republican leadership has passed not one but two energy bills that do nothing to lower prices at the pump, are anti-environment, and give billions in corporate welfare to the same oil companies that are bringing in record-breaking profits.

The time is long overdue for Congress to take real action that will lower prices at the pump and move us toward sustainable energy. The Republican leadership must rescind the tax breaks and subsidies recently given to Big Oil and bring the CEOs of the major oil companies before Congress to investigate their pricing practices. The leadership must also stop blocking attempts to enact real energy reform legislation that will control oil prices and stop Big Oil from picking the pockets of American consumers. If the Republican leadership refuses to take on Big Oil to stop their price gouging, they will have the American people to answer to.

Bernie Sanders represents Vermont as an at-large member of the House of Representatives, where he has served since 1991.

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