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Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) at rally about ending fossil fuel subsidies

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), seen here speaking at a June 29, 2021 rally near the U.S. Capitol about ending fossil fuel subsidies, is the House sponsor of legislation that would tax oil companies' excess profits. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Now Do Windfall Tax, Say Climate Groups After Passage of Big Oil Price Gouging Bill

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters," said one campaigner, "and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country."

Brett Wilkins

While cheering U.S. House Democrats for passing a bill aimed at curbing Big Oil profiteering, progressive politicians and activists on Thursday pushed Congress to go even further and pass legislation imposing a windfall tax on fossil fuel corporations raking in record profits at the expense of consumers and the climate.

"Enhanced investigatory powers won't be enough to stem Big Oil's greed and stop its exploitation. The House must move rapidly to tax the fossil fuel industry's record windfall profits."

House lawmakers passed H.R. 7688, the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, a measure introduced by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) empowering the Federal Trade Commission to hold energy companies accountable for charging "unconscionably excessive" fuel prices.

The bill passed by a vote of 217-207 without the support of a single Republican. Four Democrats—Lizzie Fletcher (Texas), Jared Golden (Maine), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.)—voted against the measure.

"The oil and gas industry has shamelessly sought to use the cover of inflation and international conflict to jack up prices and enrich their executives and investors while American families face skyrocketing energy costs," Sierra Club deputy legislative director Mahyar Sorour said in a statement.

"We applaud House Democrats for pushing forward this critical legislation to hold Big Oil accountable and protect communities from fossil fuel industry greed," she added, "and we urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president's desk."

Calling the House vote "a great start," Oil Change International U.S. program manager Collin Rees asserted that "Big Oil is gouging working families at the gas pump, and it's critical to hold these companies accountable for their exploitative practices."

Jordan Schreiber, director of energy and environment at the watchdog group Accountable.US noted that "oil and gas giants like Halliburton admit it's in their best interest to create a perpetual threat of undersupply to keep consumer prices high and their insane profits rolling in."

"It is time for Congress to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for its reckless price gouging and profiteering," she added.

The best way to accomplish this, say progressive lawmakers and campaigners, is to pass windfall profits tax legislation recently introduced in the House by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and in the upper chamber by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Under the measure, oil companies that produce or import at least 300,000 barrels of oil per day would face a per-barrel tax—whether the oil is domestically produced or imported—equal to 50% of the difference between the current price of a barrel of oil and the average price per barrel between 2015 and 2019.

Rees argued that "enhanced investigatory powers won't be enough to stem Big Oil's greed and stop its exploitation," and that "the House must move rapidly to tax the fossil fuel industry's record windfall profits."

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters, and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country," he added. Recent polling showed 80% of U.S. voters, including 73% of Republicans, support the tax.

Noting that "Shell, Exxon, and Chevron made over $20 billion in combined profit during the first three months of 2022 while they gouged us at the pump," Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner Ashley Thomson accused Big Oil of "passing its costs on to families, its workers, and communities, while hoarding profits for CEOs and shareholders."

"It's time for the exploitation of our planet and pockets to end," added Thomson. "A windfall profits tax would prioritize the well-being of people over the fossil fuel industry's war profiteering, pollution, and planetary destruction."

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