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July 14, 2022 1:54 PM, EDT

Fuel Prices Prompt Congressional Democrats to Tout Clean Energy

Pumping fuel at a service station in CaliforniaA customer pumps fuel at a service station in Hercules, Calif., in June. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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With fuel prices affecting the commercial transportation sector and motorists, senior congressional Democrats called on colleagues to boost access to alternative sources of energy.

As she expressed frustration with the impact of inflation on consumers, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), chairwoman of the Senate Energy Subcommittee, pushed for the adoption of programs meant to provide energy alternatives across the transportation landscape.



“People across the United States and around the world are dealing with high energy prices. Many families are struggling to afford the groceries they need while paying the cost of driving to daycare, to work and every place else,” Hirono said during a congressional hearing July 13. “Different states and regions all have different energy mixes, but Congress can and should provide individuals and businesses with long-term incentives to speed up the transition to cheaper, cleaner sources of power, higher energy efficiency and more affordable transportation options.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)

Hirono

“As we deal with high oil and gas prices now, we need to keep our eye on how we can accelerate the transition to more affordable options while making our country much energy self-reliant in the long term.”

Senate Democratic leaders, however, have yet to schedule floor consideration of fuel-centric legislation.

Awaiting a vote on the Senate floor is a committee-passed bill designed to enhance market transparency and direct the Federal Trade Commission to prevent fraud or manipulation linked to inflating gasoline prices.

Per the legislation, the maximum penalty for manipulating wholesale oil markets would be $2 million daily per violation. The measure also would require surveys of energy companies for gathering timely and relevant information on crude oil and transportation fuel markets. The bill’s sponsors include Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

We need a policeman on the beat as it relates to the transportation fuel market.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Calling on senators to endorse the legislation, Cantwell emphasized, “Congress has given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Commodities Future Trading Commission ability to police bad actors [so] then they can be caught and punished. But we also need a policeman on the beat as it relates to the transportation fuel market.”

Relatedly, members of Congress have yet to debate provisions associated with President Joe Biden’s call to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax. According to Energy Information Administration data released July 11, the national average price of diesel stood at $5.568.

Joe Manchin

Manchin

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are aiming to advance a climate and social spending package this summer. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are negotiating the terms of a budget-centric measure meant to advance certain electric vehicle programs, climate change proposals and alternative-energy provisions.

This scaled-back version of Biden’s “Build Back Better” social budget plan garnered opposition from Republican leaders. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently threatened to oppose a separate multibillion-dollar bill that would promote domestic manufacturing of semiconductor chips if Democrats pursued the “Build Back Better” plan.

The Kentucky Republican expressed his position on social media: “Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill.” The Senate semiconductor measure is referred to as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, or USICA.

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