Friday, July 28, 2006

Bauer Wants Carter To Investigate High Gas Prices

Crude oil prices have nearly doubled in the past 18 months from about $40 per gallon to just under $80 per gallon--reaching new record highs. House Minority Leader Pat Bauer (D) can't understand why average gas prices have increased by more than a $1 per gallon during this same period of time from $1.75 to $3.00. He thinks Attorney General Steve Carter (R) should investigate oil companies for price gouging because their profits have risen. The Star reports:

In a press release, Bauer said Carter should consider going to Gov. Mitch Daniels to declare a state of emergency in order to give the attorney general added powers to prosecute particularly outrageous examples of gouging.

In a letter to Carter, Bauer said his request was spurred by complaints he has received from constituents upset about gas prices that have gone over the $3 per gallon mark in recent days. Gasoline prices and oil company profits have increased more than 30 percent from a year ago, according to reports.

“People are finding it difficult to afford to fill up their vehicles so they can get to and from work,” Bauer said. “It is hard to listen to their concerns, then read newspaper accounts that tell us that the total earnings among the five largest oil companies have gone up more than 30 percent from a year ago.”

Bauer's call for an investigation of price gouging is completely absurd. Firstly, the conditions for a state of emergency as defined by statute are non-existent. Secondly, there is no evidence of any price gouging. By statute, price gouging occurs if: (1) the amount charged grossly exceeds the average price at which fuel was readily obtainable within the retailer's trade area during the seven (7) days immediately before the declaration of emergency; and (2) the increase in the amount charged is not attributable to cost factors to the retailer, including replacement costs, taxes, and transportation costs incurred by the retailer. This clearly has not occurred.

Nobody likes paying higher gas prices, but as long as crude oil prices continue to skyrocket and oil companies have to meet blending regulations to comply with new environmental emissions regulations, consumers are going to have to pay more at the pump. Unfairly accusing oil companies of fraud isn't going to do anything to solve the problem of gas prices. A continued push for alternative energy sources should remain our central focus. Bauer knows there's nothing Carter or Daniels can do. But by asking them to do something they can't do, he can then blame them for failing to act. That's cheap politics anyway you look at it.


Anonymous said...

I think the oil companies are unfairly gouging, or, at least, thrilled at the prospect of mass consumer confusion regarding their pricing policies. A little digging wouldn't hurt.

But Pat Bauer is just pandering to potential constituents with this press release.

And if we were really going to send someone in to investigate, I hope to God it'd be someone better than our Attorney Gen.

Doug said...

Bauer's engaging in a bit of demagoguery to be sure. But Exxon Mobil's ability to rake in $7.6 billion worth of profit in 3 months suggests that the price vastly exceeds the cost of the product. This doesn't meet the definition of price gouging you suggest, but there might be some anti-trust laws implicated.

Anonymous said...

Oil companies may not be price gouging but they are definitely double dipping. They are making record profits off of consumers and over the next 5 yrs they will be handed over 7 billion dollars at the expense of those same consumers (tax payers). These tax breaks and incentives need to go NOW! What if anything can be done about this and why isn't congress talking about removing these incentives?

Mike Kole said...

I agree with Lori. Any subsidies to the oil companies need to be ended immediately.

And, Bauer is just pandering.