In Congress, campaigns are engaging in a tug of war over gas prices as summer travel begins

WASHINGTON – As Democrats continue to escalate their attacks against the oil industry, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and others on Thursday called out Big Oil companies and their executives over high gas prices amid the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Republicans, in turn, blamed President Joe Biden’s energy policies for high gas prices, illustrating the seriousness of the problem for both parties up-to-date survey in seven battleground states, showing that the economy and cost of living were top issues for voters in the 2024 presidential campaign.

The Biden administration earlier this week he said In an attempt to lower prices ahead of the summer run, 1 million gallons of oil will be released from reserves in the northeastern United States. And Biden campaign officials pointed this out to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. report that prices show a downward trend even before the weekend.

The national average price for a gallon of gas was $3.609 on Friday, according to the auto group AAAcompared to a record high of $5,016 in June 2022. The Pennsylvania average is slightly higher than the national figure at $3,776 per gallon.

Democratic lawmakers present at Thursday’s news conference outside the U.S. Capitol included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; House Deputy Minority Leader Joe Neguse of Colorado; and Congressional Latino Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán and Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove of California.

From left, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island; Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power; and U.S. Republican Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Democrat of California, call on Big Oil companies to be held accountable for high gas prices on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Shauneen Miranda/States Newsroom)

“Instead of working to lower gas prices for Americans ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend, big oil executives are scrambling to find ways to keep prices high and profits grow rapidly,” Schumer said. The press conference was co-hosted by Climate Power, a strategic communications organization in the climate space, and the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group.

Earlier, in May, Federal Trade Commission alleged that Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, “attempted to collude with representatives of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and an associated cartel of other oil-producing countries, known as OPEC+, to reduce oil and gas production, which would cause Americans would pay higher prices at the pump to inflate his company’s profits.”

During Thursday’s event, Schumer said he would send a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice next week “urging it to investigate and prosecute collusion and price fixing that may have increased the costs of gasoline, fuel and energy, based on a report prepared by the FTC when unfortunately they allowed (Exxon) Mobil… to merge with Pioneer (Natural Resources), which I thought was a bad idea.”

Schumer added that “the federal government must use every tool at our disposal to investigate the oil industry and hold entities and illegal activities accountable. Something is wrong – very wrong – when big oil companies rake in money by polluting the atmosphere at the expense of the American people.”

Trump and the oil companies

The Senate Majority Leader and his Democratic colleagues have also recently criticized former President Donald Trump media reports saying that in April, Trump struck a quid pro quo deal with the CEOs of major oil companies.

Schumer said that “one of the ways big oil is spending their time these days is cozying up to Donald Trump, who, as we all know, is not an enemy of big oil.”

Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, setting him up for a rematch with Biden.

On Thursday, Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said their committees initiated a joint investigation in Trump’s “quid pro quo offer” to large oil.

Senators are asking nine oil and gas companies and their industry associations for information and documents regarding the alleged quid pro quo proposed by Trump.

Neguse, a Democrat from Colorado, said that for him “it all comes down to three words: polluters over people.” He noted that “over the last 16, 17 months, we have witnessed in the House the extreme majority of MAGA Republicans taking advantage of every opportunity, passing bill after bill to donate to oil companies and corporate polluters near and far.”

Republicans blame Biden

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is trying to shift the argument back to Democrats. This week’s group announced series of events across the country where he will work with local gas stations to bring gas prices back to where they were when Biden took office.

In March House GOP Conference said: “The rising gas station prices Americans are struggling with are a direct result of Joe Biden’s unprecedented war on American energy, which Biden launched on his first day in office in an attempt to appease his far left by implementing his radical Green New Deal agenda.”

Republicans referred to the statement of the US Department of Energy move on the suspension of permits for up-to-date exports of liquefied natural gas to all countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the United States, as well as on the decision at the beginning of Biden’s term to kill Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, polling and analysis published by The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, in collaboration with Democratic polling firm BSG and Republican polling firm GS Strategy Group, found that “the defining issue of this contest is a more conventional one: the economy. “

The report found that more than half of likely voters in swing states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, ranked inflation and the cost of living as the “worst/weakest” part of the economy. In seven states, Trump led Biden 47% to 44% head-to-head. Trump led in every state except Wisconsin.

Neither a spokesman for the Trump Organization nor his 2024 presidential campaign immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday.

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