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News Release
Congressman Bob Etheridge
North Carolina

September 21, 2005

                                       Contact: Joanne Peters
                                       Phone: (202) 225-4531

Etheridge To Introduce Legislation To End Gas Price Gouging

WASHINGTON - As North Carolinians continue to feel the effects of high gas prices, U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) announced legislation today to end gas price gouging and provide assistance to farmers, consumers and small businesses.

"Even before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, gasoline prices had spiraled out of control. Rural Americans get hit particularly hard by high gas prices because they face longer commutes and depend on fuel to operate farm equipment. The pocketbooks of many farmers and rural families are already stretched thin by a sluggish economy, and these record prices only add to that pinch," said Etheridge.

"Anyone who has filled up the tank over the last month knows that gas prices are too high for the average American. While Americans are struggling to make ends meet, oil companies are making record profits. In some parts of the country gas was $6 per gallon following Hurricane Katrina, and the U.S. Department of Energy has received over 7,000 complaints. As a former North Carolina small businessman, I'm a strong believer in market capitalism, but this price gouging of gasoline has got to stop."

The Federal Response to Energy Emergencies (FREE) Act is authored by Rep. Bart Stupak and co-sponsored by Reps. Etheridge and Stephanie Herseth, Co-chairs of the Rural Working Group. Currently no federal law exists to address price gouging. North Carolina has a price gouging law but the Governor must declare a state of emergency for the law to be in effect. The FREE Act will:

  • Empower the President to declare a national energy emergency.
  • Give the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice authority to prosecute oil companies engaged in price gouging involving gasoline, home heating oil or natural gas.
  • Empower the federal government to impose tough civil penalties: up to $100 million in corporations and up to $1 million and jail sentences of up to 10 years for individuals.
  • Ban other manipulative pricing practices by oil companies on the wholesale petroleum market.
  • Fines from price gouging would be used to expand the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and to provide relief to consumers or farmers paying record prices at the pump.
  • Ensure price transparency in wholesale markets for crude oil and petroleum products to help consumers understand if they are being gouged.

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