Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to bring a bill before the House for a vote this week that would ban “excessive” or “exploitative” fuel prices.
The legislation is designed to prohibit price increases during “national energy emergencies.” The measure would give the president the power to make such a declaration. As she announced the bill on Thursday, Pelosi said, “Price gouging needs to be stopped.” She declared that high gas prices are a “major exploitation” of consumers.
The bill marks the latest move by Democrats to give the impression they are doing something about energy costs leading into the midterm election season. Gas prices hit a new all-time record high on Saturday at a national average of $4.45 per gallon.
As the Biden administration has done everything it can to choke off domestic oil and gas production, congressional Democrats are now doing anything they can to lay blame for surging costs anywhere other than the White House.
As oil prices go up and the federal government disincentivizes domestic production, oil companies have used profits to pay dividends and conduct stock buybacks rather than invest in long-term production.
The bill is titled the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act and would provide enforcement power to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC would be authorized to issue direct penalties for “gouging.”
The bill faces a difficult path in the evenly divided Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to bring forward legislation there that would enhance existing FTC powers to regulate gas price manipulation.
Meanwhile, House Democrats will be able to use the publicity the price-fixing bill provides to promote the narrative that the inflation hammering Americans is somehow due to “corporate greed.”
National Review cites Hugh Rockoff, who notes that price controls prevent the market from naturally rationing the available supply of gas. Because prices would no longer direct purchasing decisions, the long lines at gas stations seen in the 1970s era of price fixing would return.
Price fixing also leads directly to black markets, hoarding, and preferential treatment for the politically well-connected.
The next week may show whether there are any House Republicans with the skill to effectively communicate the economic insanity of Pelosi’s bill to the American public.