From the Capitol / State Sen. Bob Duff
Filling up at the gas station used to be a chore. Now it's a hard hit to the pocketbook.
As gas prices creep up toward the dreaded $5 per gallon mark, it becomes increasingly frustrating to pay an arm and a leg for a basic necessity in life. You need gas to drive to work, to pick up the kids from school, to go grocery shopping or to visit family on the weekends.
That's why I joined my colleagues in the House and Senate in passing a bill that will provide some modest relief at the pump and, more importantly, strengthens protections against price gouging and profiteering by oil wholesalers.
Our legislation places a cap on the gross receipts tax at $3 a gallon of wholesale gasoline. That means the tax can't go up even when the price of wholesale gas goes up above $3. The bill also makes sure wholesalers don't artificially inflate prices at the pump to take advantage of consumers after the cap goes into effect.
The real teeth in the legislation is in the power it gives the state to investigate price gouging when prices shoot up and to impose fines when wholesalers violate anti-profiteering laws. This is a no-nonsense bill that sends a clear message to oil distributors in Connecticut that they need to play fair or face consequences.
We've done what we can at the state level to provide relief at the pump, but the real driver of sky-high gas prices occurs outside Connecticut. It happens on Wall Street.
So I led a local effort to enlist help from our federal legislators to put pressure on the main source of the problem -- oil speculators. Earlier this month, I sent a letter to our Connecticut congressional delegation urging them to rein in rampant oil speculation by cracking down on energy market manipulators.
We in Connecticut are lucky to have legislators in Washington who are already fighting this battle. I applaud their efforts to curb oil speculation by calling for better oversight of the energy markets and increased funding of the Commodity Futures trading Commission. It is my hope that the rest of Congress follows suit on this important issue.
It might come as a surprise to learn that five of the biggest oil companies operating in the United States -- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell -- generated a combined record-high profit of $137 billion last year, up 75 percent from 2010. A recent article by the National Resource Defense Council estimated that for every $3 consumers pay for gas, oil companies earn more than a dollar of profit.
Those kinds of wild profits are a slap in the face to hard-working Americans struggling to pay their bills and to keep putting food on the table. If we don't act soon, the rising cost of gasoline could turn into a crisis for working families and for the fragile economic recovery.
Let's keep putting pressure on lawmakers in Washington to tame the wild energy market and put more money in the pockets of consumers, not big oil companies.