Inside The D.C. Beltway Update: Price Gouging; EV Charging; Clean Energy Bill
Last week, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee failed to approve federal price gouging legislation by a party line 14-14 vote.
The bill, introduced by Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), is similar to the bill that passed the House the week before which would order the Federal Trade Commission to investigate “price-gouging” by oil companies.
According to Senator Cantwell’s office, the “Transportation Fuel Market Transparency Act,” would significantly increase transportation fuel market transparency and direct the (FTC) to proactively monitor and prevent any fraud or manipulation that may be artificially inflating pump prices.
EMA met with lawmakers prior to the Committee vote to explain the true factors behind prices at the pump.
EMA reinforced that the retail fuel market is among the most competitive in the economy where retailers post their prices on big signs where a one-penny difference can determine where customers choose to fill up.
Margins are squeezed in a time of rising gas prices. Senator Cantwell agreed that the problem is not with the downstream industry but that the commodities markets need to be investigated to ensure there is no manipulation in the marketplace.
Regardless, the price-gouging legislation does not have the votes to pass the Senate.
EV Charging Network
Also, this week, more than 100 fuel, retailer, and grocer entities formed the Charge Ahead Partnership to advocate for “commonsense, market-based policies that will accelerate the development of the nation’s electric vehicle (EV) charging network.”
The coalition will call on public utilities to establish rate structures that apply to power companies and private retailers in order to create a wholesale rate for electricity for EV charging.
The Biden Administration is considering tapping an emergency diesel fuel reserve to mitigate the supply shortage amplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Administration is reportedly weighing an emergency declaration that would allow it to use the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve, which contains 1 million barrels of diesel – only one day’s supply.
EMA is concerned about this prospect as it is unlikely to have any meaningfully impact on energy prices and would also negatively impact small business heating fuel dealers.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) reinforced his openness to reaching a deal on a narrow reconciliation bill focused on clean energy tax credits, lowering prescription drug prices, and deficit/inflation fighting (tax increases).
It remains uncertain how serious these negotiations are.
Part of the uncertainty is the process – Manchin has been negotiating an energy package with a bipartisan group of Senators separate from a “reconciliation” bill.
Some of his priorities, such as critical mineral mining, would not be budget relevant and therefore could not be included in a reconciliation package.
One possibility would be for Democrats to reach an agreement on a narrow bipartisan energy tax credit / security bill with Republicans, and then to pursue their own narrow reconciliation bill focusing mostly on tax changes that would only require 50 votes.
The hard deadline for a reconciliation bill is September 30. There is no deadline for an energy package.
While interest could wane the closer we get to midterms, Congress has in the past enacted a tax extenders package in the lame duck period – after the midterms.