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    Democrats Call for Energy Legislation to Curb Pump Prices

    Anti-price gouging bill leaves Shell marketers steamed.

    By W.B. King

    WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sens. Jeff Bingaman, Max Baucus, Charles Schumer, Byron Dorgan, Maria Cantwell and Bernie Sanders answered rising energy costs with the unveiling of the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, a bill addressing the root causes of high gas prices.

    "Even as it costs Americans more every day to fill up their gas tanks, Bush Republicans only offer more of the same failed energy policies that brought us to this point," Reid (D-NV) said in a released statement. "But with this bill, Democrats are protecting consumers. Instead of helping Big Oil make more money at the expense of average Americans, we are forcing oil companies to change their ways. We will hold them accountable for unconscionable price-gouging and force them to invest in renewable energy or pay a price for refusing to do so."

    In response to today's announcement, National Association of Shell Marketers (NASM) President Darrell Smith told CSNews Online, "NASM has been aware that anti-price gouging legislation would likely resurface this year at some point. We have been actively opposing such legislation beginning with its introduction last year and its attempted inclusion in the 2007 energy package," he continued. "We were pleased last year when the language was completely removed and that the compromise legislation was not included. We remain completely opposed to price control legislation. Such efforts have failed to benefit marketers and consumers when they were tried in the past."

    While NASM's opposition is clear, Smith said components of the legislation might be acceptable such as: Market Price Speculation and Halting Government Purchases of Oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. "Our Board has not yet taken a position on, but it is likely that we will support these issues," he told CSNews Online.

    New York's Democratic Senator Schumer said that focusing on the windfall profit tax will provide consumers with relief at the pump. "Oil companies are racking up obscene profits left and right while American families are stretched to the limit by skyrocketing gas prices," he continued. "It's time for Big Oil to pay its fair share so Americans can see a little relief. The windfall profits tax will do just that, and help spur innovation in the process."

    Smith said that NASM's main focus will be removing anti-gouging language from the proposed bill. "It is our understanding that the language is identical to the Senate version from 2007," he told CSNews Online. "We have no intention of seeking compromise legislation. We are 100 percent opposed to price controls."

    When asked if price control regulations could help consumers, Smith said no. "Price control legislation will not help consumers, it will harm them. Station operators are likely to close during emergencies rather than face extreme fines and jail time," he told CSNews Online. "The legislation would open the flood gates to frivolous lawsuits."

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