…at least that would be a sensible response for senators concerned about automobile fuel economy and increasing consumption of fossil fuels. While news reports have suggested that higher prices haven’t really backed down consumption much, we all know what would happen if prices were a dollar per gallon lower. But no, market-based solutions are not what a half-dozen senators had in mind when they held a press conference at a gas station on Capitol Hill. The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Congress would look into breaking up the giant companies. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) promoted her anti-price-gouging bill, which the Senate Commerce Committee adopted on Tuesday. And Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) backed a windfall profits tax, pointing to $440 billion in profits over the past six years for the nation’s five biggest oil companies.
The WSJ’s Energy Roundup points to consultant/blogger Geoffrey Styles statement in which Styles says we really shouldn’t hope for cheaper gasoline because of the effect it has greenhouse gas emissions and oil imports. (Actually, the relation between price and oil imports is complex, because domestic producers are relatively high cost. As prices fall, domestic production will tend to fall relative to foreign production.) It all reminds me of the old natural resource economics truism: a monopolist is the conservationists best friend.
“I think it’s time to say to these people, ‘Stop ripping off the American people,’ ” Sanders said.
A common congressional viewpoint, no doubt. As the bumper sticker says, Congress hates the competition.