Feds May Soon Investigate High Gas Prices
The Federal Trade Commission could soon open an investigation into alleged "anti-consumer behavior" by oil and gas companies if President Joe Biden gets his way.
Biden sent FTC Commission Lina Khan a letter Wednesday morning requesting that her agency launch such an investigation. In that letter, Biden called on the FTC to open an inquest into any possible illegal actions by oil and gas companies that are keeping gasoline prices inflated.
"The bottom line is this: gasoline prices at the pump remain high, even though oil and gas companies costs are declining," Biden writes. "[P]rices at the pump have continued to rise, even as refined fuel costs go down and industry profits go up. Usually, prices at the pump correspond to movements in the price of unfinished gasoline, which is the main ingredient in the gas people buy at the gas station. But in the last month, the price of unfinished gasoline is down more than 5 percent while gas prices at the pump are up 3 percent in that same period. This unexplained large gap between the price of unfinished gasoline and the average price at the pump is well above the pre-pandemic average."
Biden cites the rising profits of the country's two largest oil and gas companies, ExxonMobil and Chevron, as one of the needs for the investigation. In the letter, Biden wrote that the companies are on track to "nearly double their net income over 2019" and plan to "engage in billions of dollars of stock buybacks and dividends this year and next."
According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.41. That's the highest national average gas price since 2014, when national gas prices peaked at $3.70. In Louisiana, the average price of a gallon of gas is $3.15.
If the FTC does open an investigation into big oil practices, will it have any effect on prices at the pump? If it does, those effects won't be felt immediately. However, if an investigation finds that any oil companies violated any of the United States' antitrust laws, customers could see price drops once such an investigation is completed.
Biden's letter is not the first call from a federal official to investigate alleged illegal practices by big oil. In September, National Economic Council director Brian Deese wrote to the FTC, requesting that the agency look into potentially unlawful practices that could be keeping prices at the pump inflated.
The full text of Biden's letter is attached below:
The full text of the FTC's response to Deese is below: