Senate Approves Gas Price Gouging Amendment

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - The Senate Thursday approved an amendment to an energy bill that would include the requirement that the Federal Trade Commission look into allegations of gas price gouging.

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), has received unanimous support.

"At the same time that rising gas prices are causing Michigan families to think about curtailing their summer vacations, oil conglomerates are announcing all-time record profits," Stabenow said in arguing for her amendment. She noted that prices this week at one Michigan gas station climbed from $2.10 to $2.35 per gallon within two hours.

"A majority of Americans believe these skyrocketing gas prices are not fair, and I am pleased that my Senate colleagues have agreed with me that the FTC needs to investigate these price hikes," said Stabenow.

People in Dorgan's home state of North Dakota are paying about $210,000 every day, or nearly $77 million a year, on higher gas prices compared to just one year ago, at which time gas was 21 cents a gallon less than today.

"This investigation will help us determine whether the high gas prices we are paying at the pump are the result of legitimate markets forces or, as we saw with Enron in California several years ago, deliberate market manipulation," said Dorgan. "We need some answers, and we need them sooner rather than later."

The amendment calls for the FTC to investigate whether the high gas prices are the result of reducing refinery capacity or another form of market manipulation or price gouging.

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