"Oil companies need to know that we are watching, and gougers will be caught."
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In response to congressional mandates from the 2006 Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill and the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday released its findings on possible gas price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The report is titled "Investigation of Gasoline Price Manipulation and Post-Katrina Gasoline Price Increases." A copy can be downloaded at http://ftc.gov/opa/2006/05/katrinagasprices.htm. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations subcommittee, sponsored an amendment to the spending bill with Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The bill was signed into law by President Bush on November 22, 2005.
The amendment directed the FTC to investigate any evidence of price gouging throughout the supply chain and distribution markets, the effects of price gouging on economic activity in the United States, and the impact of price spikes on people's purchasing power.
"I took immediate action to make sure that big oil couldn't get away with gouging Americans. Oil companies need to know that we are watching, and that gougers will be caught," said Senator Mikulski. "It shouldn't take an act of Congress to start an investigation into gas prices. I will continue to stand sentry to make sure that oil companies are not making excuses and inflating prices at the pump."
The FTC report found 15 instances of gas price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. FTC investigators attributed those cases to "local or regional market trends." Because there is no federal law that defines gouging, Congress defined it as higher gas prices in the month following Hurricane Katrina that were not attributable to increased costs of national or international trends.
"The FTC report fails to explain why or how big oil companies have seen record profits and can afford to give their executives big bonuses and golden parachutes," said Senator Mikulski. "The American consumer is paying for that at the pump."
Last week, Senator Mikulski joined Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and several of her Democratic colleagues to introduce the Clean Energy Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) Act of 2006. The Clean EDGE Act calls for a major investment in the research, development and production of the alternative energy vehicles, fuels and technologies that will break our nation's addiction to foreign oil.
"The American public needs relief - real solutions to what we are going to do to become energy independent. We know people are nervous about rising energy costs and we know what it means to their families," said Senator Mikulski. "We need to keep America rolling."
There has been significant debate regarding the validity of the FTC report. According to USA Today, the FTC said "there was limited evidence of gasoline price gouging in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina, with soaring prices due mainly to market factors." U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said on Monday, "This is business as usual from the FTCthis report is a lot of work that says nothing, and the oil companies are laughing all the way to the bank." Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) suggested that oil companies should show some restraint and take a little less profit. On April 25th, One FTC official reportedly told CNN that "the trade commission can only look into anti-competitive practices and has no legal authority to investigate price gouging." Critics also point to the fact that the Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, Deborah Platt Majoras, prior to coming to the FTC was the "point person for ChevronTexaco and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root" while employed at the Jones Day law firm, according to SourceWatch.org (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Deborah_Platt_Majoras).
More news about the FTC report can be found at:
Senator Mikulski is one of two federal senators for the state of Maryland. She is classified as a Class III Senator. Senators are elected to six-year terms, and every two years the members of one class-approximately one-third of the Senators-face election or reelection. Terms for Senators in Class I expire in 2007, Class II in 2009, and Class III in 2011.
Ms. Mikulski's website is located at http://mikulski.senate.gov/. Her office can be reached at (202) 224-4654. More biographical info on Ms. Mikulski can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Mikulski.