Good morning. This is Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan.
These days, every morning, Americans are paying more and more simply to go to work, to drop off their kids at school, or to pick up groceries at the store.
While Americans pay out at the gas pumps, big oil rakes in record profits. Last year, Exxon Mobil posted $36 billion in profits, the largest for any corporation in United States history. Thursday, the top four oil companies reported a first quarter profit of $20 billion, and oil executives, like former Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, retire with $400 million retirement packages.
Meanwhile, gas prices keep skyrocketing, and in Washington, Republicans continue to turn a blind eye to the oil industry's activities. From this Republican controlled Congress, we hear more of the same: 'Let's just drill our way to energy independence, sacrifice our environment, and provide big tax breaks to big oil.'
Democrats, on the other hand, want to implement bold changes that ease consumers' pain today, and, in the longer term, wean America from its addiction to foreign oil.
With gas now averaging nearly $3 a gallon, it should be clear: giving special tax breaks to the President's oil company friends does not lower gasoline prices. Last summer, in a time of record deficit spending, when Congress enacted the Republican energy bill, energy companies received nearly $10 billion in special tax breaks.
One of my colleagues, Brian Higgins of New York, has proposed rolling back tax cuts for oil companies and putting the money where it's needed the most: helping pay energy bills for low-income Americans, small businesses, farmers, and ranchers.
Just as our farmers and ranchers deserve our support during this energy crunch, they also hold the key to our energy future. Members of the Democratic Rural Working Group, led by Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth and Congressman Bobby Etheridge, are drafting legislation to harness ethanol and other alternative fuels.
Today, 70 percent of the cars in Brazil can run on ethanol derived from sugar cane. If Brazil can accomplish that, just imagine what American ingenuity will do with more alternative fuels.
While ethanol is a long-term solution, Democrats want to move aggressively right now to control gas prices. For the past year, my colleagues and I have been asking the President and the Republican leadership in Congress to investigate gas price gouging. Until recently, the party of Big Oil has turned a blind eye to gas price gouging.
Most people are shocked to find that there are no federal laws against gas price gouging, therefore, the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC, has never determined that gas price gouging has occurred. Why is this? Because there is no definition of price gouging. Without a clear definition of price gouging, the FTC can do little more than study the issue.
I have introduced the Federal Response to Energy Emergencies Act, also known as the FREE Act. This legislation will define price gouging and provide the FTC and state Attorneys General with the tools necessary to prosecute 'predatory pricing.' Unfortunately, despite repeated requests, the Republican leadership has not allowed a vote on the FREE Act.
Despite Republican opposition, Democrats are offering real solutions to the pain consumers are feeling. Democrats recognize that $3 a gallon for gas and $73 a barrel for oil is too much.
We realize that in crafting a new energy policy that breaks America's oil addiction, we must be bold. Democrats stand ready to implement bold, aggressive policy changes that will alleviate today's energy crisis and answer tomorrow's challenges.
This is Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan. Thank you for listening.