House votes on gas relief legislation

Raleigh -— With the average gas price in North Carolina hovering just under four dollars per gallon, U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) voted on June 26 for a package of bills that would seek to make America more energy independent and provide relief for families suffering from high gas prices.

“North Carolina families are struggling to make ends meet as gas prices eat up more and more of their budgets,” said Etheridge. “Today Congress took action to urge oil companies to drill on the land they have, to help make public transit more affordable, and to help ensure that excessive speculation and manipulation are not driving up the price of oil.”

Etheridge voted for the Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act, which would increase domestic oil supply. The legislation would force oil companies to produce oil and gas on, or diligently develop, the 68 million acres of public land they already have leased, but are not using to produce energy. The bill failed on a mainly party-line vote.

The House passed two pieces of legislation. The Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008 would give grants to mass transit authorities to reduce public transportation fares. The funds would be available to urban and rural areas and could be used to expand transit services as well.

The House also passed the Energy Markets Emergency Act, which would direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its existing authority to curb excessive speculation and market manipulation that could be causing the spike in gas prices. Etheridge has also introduced his own legislation, H.R. 6334, The Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Oil Prices Act of 2008, that would give the CFTC additional authority and resources to prevent manipulation and excessive speculation in energy markets.

Etheridge is the Chair of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management of the House Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the government agency that is responsible for protecting the public from fraudulent practices in commodity futures trading, including oil and gasoline. The House Agriculture Committee will hold hearings in July to examine other legislation aimed at cracking down on speculators.