Ro Khanna unveils bill to ban US gas exports as big oil rakes in record profits

The California Democrat's bill would temporarily bar U.S. gas exports when prices at the pump are high—like they are right now.

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SOURCECommon Dreams

Hours after ExxonMobil and Chevron reported a combined $31 billion in third-quarter profits on Friday, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California introduced legislation that would prohibit U.S. gas exports when prices at the pump are high, as they are now.

“While Big Oil is reporting obscene profits this week, American families are struggling to afford gas at the pump,” Khanna said in a statement. “These companies should not be allowed to profit by exporting gas to other countries while we struggle with increased prices here at home. My bill will temporarily restrict exports as long as prices are above the average price in 2019.”

Endorsed by Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, and other progressive groups, Khanna’s bill—the Gasoline Export Ban Act of 2022—would bar the export of refined gasoline produced in the U.S. whenever the nationwide average price per gallon has been equal to or exceeded $3.12 for each of the preceding seven days.

The bill would not restrict diesel fuel exports, said Khanna’s office, in order “to protect our European allies” who are struggling to afford their skyrocketing energy bills as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on and winter nears.

Noting that the Saudi-led Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is deliberately suppressing oil production amid a period of increased demand to drive up prices, Khanna’s office said that a ban on U.S. gas exports would boost domestic supply and deliver relief to consumers who are being gouged.

Exxon’s record-breaking $19.7 billion profit from July to September is three times higher than what the company reported during the same period last year, while Chevron’s $11.2 billion in third-quarter profits was its second-highest on record and nearly double what it reported during the same time last year.

The two corporations have raked in a combined $73 billion in profits so far this year, taking advantage of global energy market chaos to jack up prices and reward investors with more than $32 billion in stock buybacks.

“The obscene profiteering of corporate oil and gas polluters is driving the inflation that is delivering substantial misery to American families,” Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. “An economy that is reliant on fossil fuels subjects all of us to the whims of petrostate dictators and profiteering corporations. One solution is to stop the export of gasoline to foreign markets.”

The U.S. had a 40-year-old ban on oil and gas exports until late 2015, when congressional Republicans and former President Barack Obama teamed up to repeal it at the behest of fossil fuel industry executives and lobbyists. Contrary to the claims made by Big Oil, lifting the export ban has not led to lower prices at the pump. Instead, the industry is enjoying record profits while unleashing climate-wrecking pollution at home and abroad.

“This is a lucrative business for the oil industry, but it squeezes tight supplies and jacks up prices here at home,” said Hauter. “If political leaders really want to do something to address inflation and corporate profiteering, they should get behind Rep. Khanna’s bill to stop the export of gasoline.”

With the White House reportedly considering a ban on U.S. gas exports, Hauter said that “Congress and President [Joe] Biden should get behind the Gasoline Export Ban Act immediately.”

“If political leaders really want to do something to address inflation and corporate profiteering, they should get behind Rep. Khanna’s bill to stop the export of gasoline.”

In addition to advocating for Khanna’s new bill, progressives also called on federal lawmakers to pass the Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act, which the California Democrat introduced alongside Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in March. At the time, an overwhelming 80% of U.S. voters—including 73% of Republicans—expressed support for the legislation.

In response to Exxon and Chevron’s latest profit figures, Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said, “The solution is simple: A windfall profits tax that extracts Big Oil’s unjust enrichment and returns the money to the people.”

“The cost of getting oil and gas out of the ground remains the same,” Weissman noted. “Still, the price of gasoline, home heating, and gas-fired electricity production have skyrocketed, allowing fossil fuel giants to virtually print money unchecked.”

“Fossil fuel giants are doing everything they can to ensure this situation lasts as long as possible,” he continued. “They’re ramping up oil and methane gas exports, driving up prices for U.S. consumers and further exposing us to international turmoil.”

Weissman added that “they pretend that more drilling will help. But they know that starting exploration and drilling now will have no impact on supplies any time soon. And they know that more oil and gas drilled in the U.S. will be exported—and that does virtually nothing to lower prices for Americans.”

“It’s past time for Congress to put an end to this madness,” said Weissman. “A windfall profits tax with rebates to taxpayers would offset the pain at the pump and limit Big Oil’s egregious rip-offs. Even Shell’s CEO, Ben van Beurden, acknowledges that it makes sense for governments to tap the industry to aid struggling consumers. Oil and gas executives, and lawmakers, should follow this rare bit of common sense from an executive at an industry that has done so much damage to our planet and consumers.”

As long as Senate Democrats keep the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster intact, they must convince at least 10 of their Republican colleagues to support Khanna’s bills.

Given that the GOP is gaining in the polls ahead of next month’s pivotal midterm elections as billionaire-funded ads blame Democrats for the cost-of-living crisis, it remains unlikely that Republicans will help Biden’s party by taking on Big Oil, even if it’s what their constituents want.

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