Group Calls for US Ban on Gasoline Exports to Combat Big Oil Price Gouging
"The fossil fuel industry has made obscene profits throughout a deadly global pandemic, and will continue this profiteering at the pump by promoting fuel exports when supplies are tight."
The advocacy group Food & Water Watch on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to protect U.S. consumers from fossil fuel industry profiteering by moving to reinstate a long-standing ban on oil exports.
"These corporations are simply deciding to make more money--no matter the pain it causes here at home."
As Americans have paid near-record prices at filling stations across the country this year--the American Automobile Association reports that gasoline is currently averaging $3.84 per gallon nationally, with five Western states paying $5 or more--consumer advocates have accused Big Oil of intentionally inflicting "pain at the pump" in order to boost profits at consumers' literal expense.
As Common Dreamsreported in July, eight fossil fuel companies raked in $52 billion in record second-quarter profits, a 235% increase over the previous year.
"The fossil fuel industry has made obscene profits throughout a deadly global pandemic and will continue this profiteering at the pump by promoting fuel exports when supplies are tight," Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement.
"This is highly profitable for them," she added, "and absolutely disastrous for American families struggling with sky-high inflation."
In addition to pushing a windfall profits tax to combat both corporate avarice and the climate emergency, progressives are calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to reimpose a fuel export ban, which was in effect for 40 years until lifted in 2015.
"These corporations are simply deciding to make more money--no matter the pain it causes here at home," said Hauter. "The White House should take proactive steps to ban gasoline exports to protect American consumers from Big Oil's price gouging."
Proponents of an export ban say the policy would lower U.S. gas prices, and point to the crucial role that booming exports have played in exacerbating domestic fuel costs.
As the consumer advocacy group Public Citizennoted in June, the 2015 law ending the U.S. export ban contains a provision enabling the president to unilaterally "impose export licensing requirements or other restrictions on the export of crude oil from the United States for a period of not more than one year, if the president declares a national emergency."
\u201cUnder a #ClimateEmergency Biden can:\n\u2705Reinstate the crude oil export ban \n\u2705Restrict $$ investments in fossil fuels abroad\n\u2705Direct disaster relief to distributed renewables\n\nTell Biden to use all his powers now! \nhttps://t.co/zkWEnWhFEc\u201d— CBD Climate (@CBD Climate) 1665610104
Earlier this month, White House officials tasked the U.S. Department of Energy with studying the potential impacts of reinstating the fuel export ban. This, after U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in September that the administration was not considering such a ban, while urging fossil fuel producers to increase domestic inventories of gasoline and diesel to combat high prices.
On Wednesday, Biden's chief economic adviser, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, toldBloomberg Tax that "we have to keep all options on the table" to ease U.S. fuel prices.
"The profit that energy refining companies are now capturing on every gallon of gasoline is about double what it typically is at this time of year."
U.S. refiners are girding for the remote possibility that Biden will restrict fuel exports ahead of next month's midterm elections. They're urging his administration to eschew such a policy, which leading lobbies American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufactures argue "would likely decrease inventory levels, reduce domestic refining capacity, put upward pressure on consumer fuel prices, and alienate U.S. allies during a time of war."
On Tuesday, the White House announced the U.S. will release 15 million barrels of oil from the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), to be delivered in December, while calling on the Department of Energy "to be ready to move forward with additional significant SPR sales this winter if needed due to Russian or other actions disrupting global markets."
Additionally, Biden "is calling on companies to pass through lower energy costs to consumers right away," with the White House noting that "the profit that energy refining companies are now capturing on every gallon of gasoline is about double what it typically is at this time of year, and the retailer margin over the refinery price is more than 40% above the typical level."
"These outsized industry profit margins--adding more than $0.60 to the average price of a gallon of gas--have kept pump prices higher than they should be," the White House asserted. "Keeping prices high even as input costs fall is unacceptable, and the president will call on companies to pass their savings through to consumers--now."
While fossil fuel interests and many capitalist experts claim there is little evidence of Big Oil price gouging, progressive economists and advocacy groups say that--along with supply and demand issues, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the move by OPEC+ nations to reduce global oil supplies--corporate greed is to blame for high pump prices.
An analysis published earlier this month by Accountable.US, for example, showed that even though crude oil prices had recently fallen to their lowest levels since January, "prices for consumers are still 13% higher than they were last time oil was this cheap."