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Congressional Democrats urge oil, gas price-gouging inquiry

Reps. Davids, Cleaver co-sign letter
Courtney Taylor
Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 16:49:31-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Reps. Sharice Davids and Emanuel Cleaver II are among 32 members of Congress who signed a letter to U.S. House and Senate leadership requesting “immediate investigations” and “public hearings on alleged price gouging within the oil and gas industry.”

Davids, a Democrat from Kansas, and Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, said the inquiry ought to be a “top priority” for Congress through the end of 2022 in a March 10 letter.

“As American families work to make ends meet, Congress must take action to investigate reports of illegal profiteering, anticompetitive business practices, and price gouging within the oil and gas industry and hold public hearings, as appropriate,” the letter said.

The congress members noted that that “the 24 largest players in the oil and gas industry earned a record $174 billion in the profits” from January through September 2021.

Those same companies “scaled back investments in research, development, and capital improvements, instead focusing on share buybacks, dividend increases, and bonuses for senior corporate executives,” actions that long predate the Russian invasion of Ukraine being blamed for surging prices at the pump.

Cleaver and Davids previously joined a bipartisan vote to suspend imports of Russian oil amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which started last month and has led to nearly 600 civilian deaths.

Russia supplies roughly 7% of U.S. petroleum imports, which is tied for fourth with Saudi Arabia behind Canada (52%) and Mexico (11%), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The percentage of U.S. crude-oil imports from Russia is less than 3% with Canada (61%), Mexico (11%) and Saudi Arabia (8%) serving as the top suppliers for crude oil, which is refined to make gasoline.

Currently, the U.S. is actually a net exporter of petroleum and natural gas, according the federal Energy Information Administration.

Two days earlier, Davids penned a letter to President Biden, which encouraged him to release more oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve and rescind the federal fuel sales tax, which is 18.3 cents per gallon for unleaded and 24.3 cents per gallon for diesel.

In addition to continuing negotiations with OPEC to increase the global supply, Davids proposed a renewed focus on long-term solutions to U.S. energy independence.

International oil markets are notoriously volatile and subject to political influence, making the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels fraught with economic peril in addition to the impacts of burning oil, gas and coal have on the environment.

“I ask that you continue to advocate for investment and advancement in renewable and alternative fuels,” Davids wrote.

She couched sustainable energy as a hedge against the whims of “dictators like Putin” and against the volatility and inflationary pressures in the oil market.

“We must invest in domestic clean energy production,” Davids wrote. “This will help promote American energy independence, establish global leadership, and create good, union jobs here at home, including those in the Kansas wind sector.”

Ellie Turner, a spokesperson for Davids, who is projected to face a rematch with former Cerner executive Amanda Adkins in the 2022 general election, said the two-term congresswoman “has been focused on concrete solutions to rising prices and to inflation in the long-term. Every time Kansans are filling their tank, they know who’s really on their side.”

Davids defeated Adkins by a margin of 10% in the 2020 election.