House Democrats Buckle Under Pressure from Big Oil, Strip Down Price Gouging Bill
Behold the spineless Democratic Party.On Iraq, no deadlines.
On trade, no enforceable worker protections.
Now, today, on oil industry price gouging, collapse.
In the face of withering pressure from the oil industry, the Democrats in the House, led by Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), have reportedly castrated their own legislation.
Stupak's original bill — HR 1252 — would make it unlawful to sell crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, or petroleum distillates at a price that "is unconscionably excessive" or "indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions (whether real or perceived) or the circumstances of an emergency to increase prices unreasonably."
The law would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
But according to a report by Darren Goode in Congress Daily AM, late last night, Stupak "added a trigger to his bill allowing the FTC to go after price gougers only during presidentially-declared energy emergencies."
In other words — almost never.
Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen's Congress Watch called the move "pretty unfortunate."
Slocum said that Stupak's original bill would have given the FTC long needed powers to go after oil companies in situations like the one the country is facing today — skyrocketing gasoline prices.
"There is no question that the record high gasoline prices we are seeing today amount to just a transfer of wealth," Slocum said. "Up until this point, the FTC has not moved, because the antitrust laws on the books are so weak. There is no price gouging law currently on the books."
Stupak and more than 100 House members said they wanted to put that law on the books. But now, it looks like the Democrats have once again caved to the dominant corporate powers that be.
The House will vote on the bill later today.
Slocum said that Public Citizen was strongly in favor of the original Stupak bill.
But if the bill is going to be similar to a bill introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) — only enforceable in times of energy emergencies — Public Citizen would not fight for it.
"This shows the oil industry still holds sway over the Democratic Party," Slocum said. "Things are definitely different, but not that much different. Are you going to see the Democrats taking big swings at Big Oil? No."
Stupak's office did not return calls seeking comment.
Slocum said that some environmental groups want to see higher gasoline prices so that Americans drive less — like in Europe.
"But in Europe, the gasoline prices are higher because of taxes," Slocum said. "And the taxes are used to fund mass transit. Here, the money goes straight to the oil companies. It's just a transfer of wealth."
© 2007 Corporate Crime Reporter