Cantwell to Chair Commerce Committee Hearing on Impact of Surging Gas Prices on U.S. Consumers and Commerce

March 18, 2022

Oil industry executives invited to testify

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced that, in the coming weeks, the Committee will hold a hearing to examine the impact of the surge in petroleum prices on commerce and consumers, and has invited leading oil industry executives to testify. 

While Russia’s egregious assault on democratic Ukraine has clearly impacted world oil prices, crude only accounts for roughly half of the retail cost of gasoline,” Sen. Cantwell wrote in a letter to ExxonMobil, Pioneer Natural Resources, and BP America, Inc. “Some market analysts have highlighted that current retail gasoline and diesel prices are considerably higher than analogous periods of elevated world oil prices. Others have noted that oil and petroleum markets lack transparency and that decisions by just a few players, particularly during tight markets, may have an outsized and undue impact on retail prices.”

“It has also been pointed out that the Federal Trade Commission, using the authority and responsibility that Congress gave the Commission in 2007, could be doing more to monitor wholesale oil markets and investigate suspicious or inexplicable trading practices,” she also wrote, noting that the hearing “will focus on steps Congress can take to maintain the free flow of goods and services and protect consumers from excessive pump prices.”

At a hearing last week in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which she is a senior member, Sen. Cantwell publicly called for oil executives to again appear before the Senate in order to justify skyrocketing profits as prices at the pump surged.  In 2005, Cantwell grilled top oil executives on then exorbitant oil prices and secured commitments from ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell to open their books and help shed light on possible price gouging. After years of efforts, in 2007 Cantwell successfully got enacted two milestone new laws to better police energy markets, including making it a federal crime to manipulate wholesale oil markets.

The Committee will provide further details on the hearing, titled “The Corrosive Effect of Elevated Petroleum Prices on American Commerce and Consumers” as soon as they become available.