Arizona residents have noticed the increase in gas prices at the pump for a number of months now and it has negatively affected residents with the amount they pay to go to work, school, and other daily activities. According to data from American Automobile Association (AAA), as of May 24th of this year, Arizona residents across the state pay on average $4.91 per gallon for regular gas, which is more than the national average of $4.59 per gallon. And then there are county variations to the cost of gas, like residents of Maricopa County who have to pay on average $5.20 for a gallon of gas.
There are a multitude of factors that have contributed to this rise in gas prices but the main two are the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the early stages of the pandemic, driving and transportation dropped dramatically and production of crude oil was reduced, so by the time the demand for gas from consumers ready to travel again started to rise the industry was not prepared. Then economic sanctions were placed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and the demand for a global supply of crude oil skyrocketed.
To address this growing concern for consumers, Congress introduced bill H.R.7688 the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act. This bill protects consumers by outlawing the sale of consumer fuel for cars, home heating oil, and liquid propane at excessively high prices during an emergency energy period–which would be issued by the President. It also gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authority to oversee the energy sector, penalize those who are manipulating the market for high profit while harming consumers, improve transparency, and promote fair competition for gas prices. The bill also contains protections for independently owned gas stations who have been negatively affected by the oil supply chain issues.
The bill passed the House of Representatives with 217 Democratic votes in favor of the bill, 204 Republican and four moderate Democratic votes against the bill, and five Republicans who refused to vote. Among the 207 votes against the bill was Arizona’s entire Republican delegation, Representatives Andy Biggs (5th district), Paul A. Gosar (4th district), Debbie Lesko (8th district), and David Schweikert (6th district). The bill will now make its way to the Senate but with virtually no Republican support in the House and the growing partisanship present in Congress the odds of this bill passing seem unlikely.
In the meantime, Representative Tom O’Halleran (1st district) who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee spoke in a committee hearing with the goals of uncovering the role of oil companies in the rising costs of gas as well as generating solutions to bring down prices for families in Arizona. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (3rd district) who is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee called on oil and gas companies to testify before the committee to examine the industry’s role in gas prices during the crisis in Ukraine with their record profits, the companies refused to testify.
And Representative Ruben Gallego (7th district) urged the IRS to deduct the cost of operating an automobile for small businesses and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to use some of the American Rescue Plan funds to provide Arizona families with direct relief for rising gas prices.