Spiking West Coast Gas Prices Spur Feinstein, Cantwell, Wyden to Introduce Bill Targeting Fuel Market Anomalies Hurting Consumers
May 13 2022
Washington—With Americans facing record level gas and diesel price increases, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to introduce legislation that would significantly increase transportation fuel market transparency and directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to proactively monitor and prevent any fraud or manipulation that may be artificially inflating pump prices. The legislation will likely be considered at the Commerce Committee’s next Executive Session and Senate Majority Leader Schumer has publically committed to a Senate floor vote on the measure.
“Americans are paying record-high gas prices while gas companies are raking in record-high profits. It’s time for this to stop,” said Senator Feinstein. “As we continue to work toward energy independence by investing in clean energy sources, we also need to ensure there is greater transparency in the oil and gas markets to prevent price gouging.”
“This legislation couldn’t come at a more needed time as drivers in Washington and all across the country face record breaking pump prices,” said Senator Cantwell. “Americans are frustrated and bewildered by gasoline prices that keep going up even when oil prices drop and fossil fuel companies post obscene profits. Protecting American households and business requires forcing the same level of transparency in fuel markets that we successfully fought to secure in other energy markets. This legislation will put a full time policeman on the beat able to shine a bright light on the mysterious middle of gas markets and go after any bad actors that are exploiting consumers.”
“The outrageous volatility of the oil and gas market goes far beyond legitimate free-market competition,” Senator Wyden said. “This much is painfully clear: oil companies and middlemen are raking in profits while Americans from communities large and small struggle to afford record-high prices at the pump. This legislation provides much-needed transparency and oversight to reveal harmful price gouging that is devastating working families.”
The Transportation Fuel Market Transparency Act:
- Strengthens Oversight. Enhances the FTC’s 2007 authority to go after false market information designed to artificially inflate retail prices at the consumers’ expense, including data submitted to private-sector price reporting agencies. Legislation broadens Commission’s oversight authority to cover the full range of transportation fuels, including biofuels.
- Ensures Dedicated Market Monitoring. Establishes a new Transportation Fuel Monitoring and Enforcement Unit at the FTC devoted to protecting the public interest by continuously and comprehensively monitoring and analyzing crude oil, gasoline, diesel, home heating oil and other petroleum distillate markets in order to facilitate transparent and competitive market practices.
- Targets Bad Actors. The new unit at the FTC is also charged with identifying any manipulation, reporting of false information, use of market power or any other unfair method of competition employed to distort transportation fuel markets to accrue illegal profits, and advising the full Commission whether to go after the perpetrators and impose relevant penalties.
- Increases Penalties. Doubles the maximum penalty for manipulating wholesale oil markets to $2,000,000 a day for each violation.
- Improves Market Transparency and Competition. Directs the Energy Information Administration to collect, analyze, and publish more detailed information related to the quantity and pricing of transportation fuels in order to facilitate price transparency, fair competition, and compliance with relevant international sanctions. This data may also be used to facilitate enhanced FTC efforts to police the transportation fuel markets.
A one-page summary of the Transportation Fuel Market Transparency Act is available here.
Background information on Federal Anti-Market Manipulation Authority is available here.
The full bill text is available here.