Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The High Price of Gasoline

As Submitted To The Congressional Record

I remain concerned about the high price of gasoline that continues to disproportionately hurt working class families, especially those in rural states like Vermont. In Vermont, the average price of gasoline remains above the national average. Despite significant efforts to improve public transportation in the state, many Vermonters must still rely on their cars as the primary mode of transportation. More can and must be done to help families who are struggling to find jobs and put food on the table.


Crude oil accounts for the largest share of the price of gasoline. I am concerned that excessive speculation in the oil market has contributed to a significant rise in the price of gasoline. Congress included important protections to address excessive speculation in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As a conferee and strong advocate for that law, I have pushed the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to quickly implement the protections and rules to help curb these abuses.


At the same time, we must ensure that local and regional markets remain competitive and that oil companies do not engage in anticompetitive practices. While prices have eased somewhat nationally this summer, there have been concerns raised about price disparities in the cost of gasoline in Vermont. Vermont prices remain higher than the national average and residents of northern Vermont are paying even more than their neighbors just one or two towns to the south.  I support the efforts by the State of Vermont, Senator Sanders, and Federal regulators to look into whether these differences can be explained by market conditions, and to take action if they cannot.  Such serious allegations should be properly investigated by the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.  


The largest oil companies raked in $137 billion in profits last year alone, while also taking in billions in taxpayer subsidies.  Repeated efforts to repeal these ridiculous subsidies — by myself and a majority of the Senate — have been filibustered by friends of the big oil industry. It is these large oil companies and those working at the wholesale level that are reaping tremendous profits, while many of our independent and locally own stations are struggling to make ends meet. Regrettably, many of these same local stations are forced to shutter their doors when the large oil chains undercut their business.


The real cost of high gas prices is more than just the bill at the pump. These prices force families to choose between filling their gas tanks and putting food on the table. And they mean rising food prices due to increased shipping costs. These are costs that working families, particularly in these difficult economic times, often cannot absorb. I will continue to push for creative, long-term solutions to relieve the pain at the pump.


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