WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden warned oil and gas companies Wednesday not to use Hurricane Ian as an excuse to raise prices at the gas pump as a Category 4 storm swept into Florida.
“Let me repeat – don’t use this as an excuse to raise gas prices or measure the American people,” Biden said in a speech at the White House.
More: Hurricane Ian lands on Florida’s southwest coast as major Category 4 storm: Live updates
Small effect so far: Biden said that only 190,000 barrels of oil so far in the Gulf of Mexico were affected by Hurricane Ian, accounting for just 2% of daily US production.
‘No excuse’: Biden said the “small, temporary storm impact on oil production” should not provide “excuses” for price increases at the pump. “No,” he said.
‘The American is watching’: If gas companies used Hurricane Ian to raise prices at the pump, Biden said he would ask federal officials to investigate whether there was price gouging. “America is watching. Industry must do the right thing.”
What does the law say about price gouging?
In Florida, state law prohibits the sale of essential goods, including gasoline, at “an unreasonable price” during an emergency declaration. A price is considered “irrational” when there is a large difference between the price in an emergency and the price in the previous 30 days.
37 states have regulations against price targeting in emergencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a neutral association that monitors, monitors, and researches laws that affect state policy.
More: Ian strengthened into a Category 4 storm on a collision course to crash the Florida Gulf Coast
Although there is no federal law that explicitly prohibits price increases during natural disasters, the practice is governed by federal antitrust laws that prohibit anticompetitive business practices.
The Federal Trade Commission prohibits “price fixing”, and the FTC has the power to enforce consumer protection laws that target “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” and to prosecute data on how companies set gas prices.
Biden is working to curb the potential impact of Hurricane Ian on gas prices, which have fallen dramatically since the summer, and is helping to improve the once dismal approval ratings.
The average price of a gallon of gas on Wednesday was $3,765, according to AAA. It fell by more than $5 in mid-June, although it’s up more than a nickel from last week.
More: Forecasters say Ian could wet Florida for days, sparking fears of ‘catastrophic flooding’
The president does not want to see this trend reverse, especially 41 days before the midterm elections.
In a warning shot to oil and gas executives, Biden is chasing one of his favorite targets. The president has regularly criticized the oil and gas industry – unpopular among the Democratic base – for record profits this year amid historic prices at the pump.
what do they say
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil and gas industry, said in a statement, “Gasoline prices are determined by market forces, not individual companies, and argues that the price at the pump is something other than a function of supply and demand.”
“Hurricane Ian could cause problems depending on the storm’s path, by disrupting oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and affecting major onshore refineries,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson.
“Our country has seen time and again that major storms and frequent connecting flights at gas stations can have a rapid impact on prices,” the American Association of Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers said in a statement. The group said the temporary closure of some gas stations in Florida and increased local demand will cause disruptions. “The market is resilient and will work to quickly correct this imbalance, but the return to normal will likely not be immediate.”
According to GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices, about 10% of Florida gas stations are currently unavailable.
Reach out to Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article was originally published in USA TODAY: Biden warns oil industry not to use Hurricane Ian to push gas prices