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A sign tries to make light of the high price of gas. (Photo: HA! Designs-Artbyheather/Flickr/cc)

Ahead of House Vote, Analysis Details How Big Oil Price Gouging Rewards Wall Street

"Congress has a narrow window of opportunity to stop profiteering at the pump and secure a more stable, sustainable future for all. It's time to act—before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins

As congressional lawmakers prepare to vote on a bill aimed at curbing Big Oil profiteering, an analysis published Wednesday by a trio of advocacy groups shows how fossil fuel companies "continue to generously reward their investors while consumers pay sky-high prices."

"Big Oil is turning humanitarian disaster and consumer pain into Wall Street profits."

Data compiled by Friends of the Earth, BailoutWatch, and Public Citizen shows that "the biggest oil and gas companies are returning billions more in cash to themselves and their investors amid windfall profits from war."

Public Citizen researcher Alan Zibel said in a statement that "fossil fuel executives are sending windfall profits to their shareholders and sticking consumers with the bill while accelerating the climate crisis. Now is the time, finally, to hold Big Oil accountable."

According to the analysis, the 20 biggest U.S.-based fossil fuel companies reported $30.3 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2022, a 155% increase from the same period last year.

Meanwhile, during the first five months of 2022, eight companies authorized plans to buy back and retire $46 billion in stock, a 116% increase over all combined buybacks last year. Stock buybacks surged by $36 billion since February 2022, when anticipation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine fueled a dramatic surge in oil prices.

BailoutWatch data analyst Chris Kuveke asserted that the war's impact "has laid bare how little these companies care about their impact on the wider world."

"The least we can do is impose a modest measure of accountability on this historic money grab," he added.

Lukas Ross, program manager at Friends of the Earth, said that "Big Oil is turning humanitarian disaster and consumer pain into Wall Street profits."

"It's about time," he argued, "that Democrats put price gouging and war profiteering to a vote."

U.S. House lawmakers are expected to do so as soon as Wednesday, when H.R. 7688, the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, comes up for a vote. Introduced by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), the proposed legislation would give the U.S. Federal Trade Commission expanded authority to hold energy companies accountable for charging "unconscionably excessive" fuel prices.

"At a time when people in the 8th district and across the country are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, Congress needs to be doing all it can to bring down costs for American families," Schrier asserted. "What's infuriating is that this is happening at the same time that gas and oil companies are making record profits and taking advantage of international crises to make a profit. This must stop."

"Gas and oil companies should be held accountable and should not be making the situation worse by gouging Americans at the pump," she added. "This bill needs to be passed and signed into law as soon as possible."

Porter noted that "companies are not struggling—they continue to announce record profits and tens of billions dollars' worth of stock buybacks—but families are."

"Big Oil is price gouging families because they can," she added. "Enough is enough. I'm proud to help introduce this bill that will hold these corporations accountable, stop their abuse, and give families relief."

In addition to H.R. 7688, Congress is also considering a Big Oil Windfall Tax—introduced in the House by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in the Senate—an overwhelmingly popular measure supported by 80% of U.S. voters, including nearly three-quarters of self-described Republicans.

"Unless we fight back, Big Oil profiteers will continue adding to their profits—and to those of the authoritarian petrostates they've long been in bed with," Lindsay Owens and Hebah Kassem wrote on Wednesday. "Congress has a narrow window of opportunity to stop profiteering at the pump and secure a more stable, sustainable future for all. It's time to act—before it's too late."

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