Senators Unveil Consumer-First Energy Act

WASHINGTON, May 7 - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others in unveiling the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, a bill that addresses the root causes of high gasoline prices.

"If we don't act boldly, the economic situation for millions of middle-class families and working Americans will continue to deteriorate," Sanders said. Congress and the president can no longer sit idly by while Americans are getting ripped off at the gas pump, the economy deteriorates, and Exxon Mobil, greedy speculators, and OPEC are allowed to make out like bandits pushing oil and gas prices higher and higher."

The legislation would:

• Tax Windfall Profits Imposes a 25 percent tax on "windfall profits" of the major oil companies. This tax would not apply to excess profits the oil companies invested in clean, affordable and domestically produced renewable alternative fuels, expanding refinery capacity and utilization, or renewable electricity production. All revenue collected would be deposited into an Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund.

• Eliminate Unnecessary Tax Breaks for Oil and Gas Companies Repeals the deduction for domestic production for the major oil and gas companies for their income on the sale, exchange or other disposition of oil, natural gas, or any primary product thereof. Tightens the rules restricting the use of foreign tax credits on oil and gas related income. All revenue collected would be deposited into an Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund.

• Suspend Strategic Petroleum Reserve Shipments Allow filling to resume when the 90-day average price of crude oil recedes to $75 or less.

• Punish Price Gouging The president is given authority to declare an energy emergency if there is a shortage, disruption or significant pricing anomalies. During such an emergency, setting "an unconscionably excessive price" is made unlawful and punishable with significant civil penalties.

• Limit Price Impacts of Excessive Speculation Prevents traders of U.S. crude oil from routing transactions through off-shore markets to evade speculative limits and sets reporting requirements. - Require the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to set a substantially increased margin requirement within 90 days for all crude oil futures trades, contracts or transactions, to limit excessive speculation and protect consumers.

• Authorize Action Against Oil Cartels The provision allows the Attorney General to bring an enforcement action against any country or company that is colluding in setting the price of oil, natural gas or any petroleum product.

The bill is available here.