Biden Seeks Quiz On Oil Companies For Skyrocketing Fuel Prices
President Biden asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday to consider whether “illegal conduct” by large oil and gas companies is pushing up gasoline prices for US consumers, the latest effort by the administration to target concentration in the energy industry in a bid to bring down prices at the pump.
Photo Insert: US President Joe Biden takes an electric vehicle for a spin.
The move is unlikely to spur immediate action by the FTC, which has the power to break up large industry players, and it is unlikely to affect gasoline prices materially any time soon, Jim Tankersley reported for the New York Times.
But it could spur the commission to open an investigation to gather data on how companies set gasoline prices, which could be used in future enforcement actions.
Biden’s letter to Lina Khan, the antitrust champion he appointed as chair of the commission, claims “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies.”
The president noted that prices at the pump have risen even as the costs of refined fuel have fallen and industry profits have gone up. The two largest players in the industry, ExxonMobil and Chevron, have doubled their net income since 2019, he wrote, while announcing billions of dollars in plans to issue dividends and buy back stock.
The average gallon of gas was nearly $3.40 in the US on Monday, according to the Energy Information Agency, its highest price in seven years. If the gap between refined fuel costs and gasoline prices at the pump were to return to normal pre-pandemic levels, drivers would be paying as much as 25 cents less per gallon, White House officials estimate.
Earlier this year, Mr. Biden asked the commission to monitor the gasoline market for any illegal conduct. The commission responded by increasing scrutiny of mergers in the oil and gas industry.