Gasoline Prices: Causes of Volatility and Congressional Response
Gasoline Prices: Causes of Volatility
and Congressional Response
Updated November 13, 2008
Carl E. Behrens
Specialist in Energy Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Information Research Specialist
Knowledge Services Group
Gasoline Prices: Causes of Volatility and Congressional
The high price of gasoline has been and continues to be a driving factor in
consideration of energy policy proposals. Despite passage of the massive Energy
Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005, P.L. 109-58), and the Energy Independence and
Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 6, P.L. 110-140), numerous other proposed initiatives
came under active consideration in the Second Session of the 110th Congress.
Measures proposed included opening the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas
drilling, regulation of speculation in energy markets, and policies concerning the
Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
A large number of factors combined to put pressure on gasoline prices,
including increased world demand for crude oil and limited U.S. refinery capacity to
supply gasoline. The war and continued violence in Iraq added uncertainty, and
threats of supply disruption added pressure, particularly to the commodity futures
markets. Concern that speculation added volatility and upward pressure was
frequently cited. In recent months, a decline in the value of the dollar compared to
other currencies increased the dollar price of oil on futures markets.
The gasoline price surge stimulated much legislative activity, but until the last
year or so there was not the sense of the extreme urgency of previous energy crises.
In part, this may be due to the fact that there was been no physical shortage of
gasoline or lines at the pump, as there were after the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and
the Iranian revolution in 1979. At that time there was expectation that prices were
destined to grow ever higher, and many believed that the world’s supply of oil was
running out. Such views have been less prevalent during the current run-up. But the
continued and unrelenting increase in crude oil prices to record levels, even
discounting inflation, led many to suggest that changing world market conditions
may cause permanent, or at least chronic, shortages of petroleum production capacity.
Others continued to expect that growth in demand would moderate, and production
increase to meet demand, as it did following the shortages of the 1970s.
The continuing high prices led to a further search for legislative remedies. This
report, after analyzing factors that have contributed to high gasoline prices, describes
the major legislative initiatives and discusses the issues involved.
Most Recent Developments..........................................1
Background and Analysis...........................................1
Why Did Prices Go So High?....................................3
Crude Oil Prices...........................................3
Reducing Consumer Impacts and Regulating Oil Markets..........9
Mid- to Long-Term Supply and Demand.......................11
List of Figures
Figure 1. Average Daily Nationwide Price of Unleaded Gasoline,
January 2002-November 2008....................................2
Figure 2. China’s Oil Production and Consumption, 1986-2007.............3
Figure 3. OPEC Surplus Crude Oil Production Capacity...................4
Figure 4. Average Annual Components of Gasoline Prices, 2000-2007 and
Figure 5. U.S. Gasoline Consumption, January 2000-October 2008...........6
Figure 6. Nominal and Real Price of Gasoline, 1950-2007 and
Figure 7. Consumer Spending on Oil as a Percentage of GDP, 1970-2004.....8
Gasoline Prices: Causes of Volatility and
Most Recent Developments
Gasoline and crude oil prices surged to record levels in May 2008, but as the
summer driving season ended they moderated somewhat, and then plunged as
economic worries cut consumption. (See Figure 1.) Cumulative consumption of
gasoline for the first 311 days of 2008 was about 3% less than the same period in
Despite passage in December 2007 of the Energy Independence and Security
Act (H.R. 6, P.L. 110-140), the main provisions of which were an increase in the
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles and light
trucks, and an increase in the requirement for the use of renewable fuels in gasoline,
the Second Session of the 110th Congress continued active consideration of various
energy proposals. When the Congress broke for the November elections, it had
passed legislation affecting oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS),
energy taxes, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), but it had also considered
legislation regarding price gouging and speculation in energy futures markets, and
also dealing with oil market manipulation by the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Background and Analysis
The persistence of high gasoline prices led to a broad spectrum of proposed new
legislation in the First Session of the 110th Congress. Despite passage of the major
Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58), many Members continued to explore a
variety of measures to increase supply and reduce demand in the short term, and to
reduce the impact of high prices on consumers, as well as revisit longer-term policies
that were left behind in the process of reaching agreement on P.L. 109-58.
One such proposed policy was increasing CAFE standards for automobiles and
light trucks, and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 6, P.L.
110-140) resolved a decades-long debate by setting new standards and procedures for
meeting them. P.L. 110-140 also increased the requirement to use renewable fuels
in gasoline, including advanced biofuels such as cellulosic alcohol starting in 2016.
However, a number of proposals included in one or more versions of energy
legislation in 2007 were dropped from the final bill, and those issues remained of
interest to the Congress during the Second Session.
With gasoline prices soaring, a new wave of legislative proposals appeared in
the Congress. Prominent among them were bills to suspend the federal gasoline and
diesel transportation tax during the summer driving season, by presidential candidates
Senators McCain and Clinton. Senator Domenici introduced a bill emphasizing U.S.
petroleum production, including opening the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and part
of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and gas leasing and
encouraging leasing of oil shale deposits. Senator Reid introduced a bill which,
among other measures, would impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
Another tax issue was the effort to extend tax credits for renewable energy
production, and offset them by increasing taxes on the oil companies.
Numerous bills were also introduced to deal with the possibility that speculation
was unreasonably driving up oil prices. The House passed several bills identifying
and prohibiting price gouging. President Bush’s policy of continuing fill of the SPR
was opposed in both Houses, and a bill suspending fill became law. Proposals to sell
SPR oil in an effort to moderate oil prices were not adopted, however.
The major debate in the Second Session was the proposal by Republicans to
open up the OCS for oil and gas leasing.
This report reviews the major legislative initiatives to deal with the gasoline
price issue. To put these proposals in perspective, it first describes some of the
factors that have led to the high prices of both crude oil and gasoline.
Figure 1. Average Daily Nationwide Price of Unleaded Gasoline,
January 2002-November 2008
2AprJulOctn '03AprJulOctn '04AprJulOctn '05AprJulOctn '06AprJulOctn '07AprJulOctn '08AprJulSepNov
Notes: Prices include federal, state, and local taxes. Last date above is November 13, 2008; $2.18.
Source: Daily Fuel Gauge Report, American Automobile Association [http://www.fuelgaugereport.
com], compiled by CRS.
Why Did Prices Go So High?
The run-up of gasoline prices that began in spring 2004 (see Figure 1) climaxed
a period of almost five years during which gasoline prices demonstrated a great deal
of regional volatility but less of an increase at the national level. In 2004, a large
number of factors combined to exert pressure on gasoline prices in all parts of the
country. Some of these factors affected the price of crude oil, and others the cost of
producing and marketing gasoline.
Crude Oil Prices. Past energy crises have demonstrated that oil is traded in
a world market, in which events in remote areas affect the price of crude for almost
everyone. As a result, the price of crude oil is set through the interaction of world
demand and supply. Major factors in the run-up of crude oil prices were the sharply
increased consumption of imported oil by China (see Figure 2) and the continuing
possibility of a supply disruption, either from violence or terrorism in the Middle
East, or from natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Figure 2. China’s Oil Production and Consumption, 1986-2007
6,0 00 Consumption
3,0 00 Pr od uc t i on
1 986 198 8 19 90 1992 199 4 19 96 1998 200 0 20 02 2004 200 6
Note: 2007 is the forecast value.
Source: EIA, China Energy Profile, downloaded on May 19, 2007.
World demand for crude oil grew by 1.3% in 2007 to 86.0 mbd. World supply
was 87.3 mbd in March 2008, leaving relatively little excess supply to draw on if the
market were disrupted by natural or political disasters.1 When excess supply on the
market is low, prices tend to rise and become more volatile.
1 International Energy Agency, Oil Market Report, April 11, 2008, p. 1.
Some observers have suggested that speculators, who have entered the
commodity markets in large numbers looking for ways to increase their monetary
investments rather than to trade in oil and oil products, were causing an unacceptable
upward pressure on prices. Another factor in recent months was been the decline in
the value of the dollar compared to other currencies. Since world prices of oil are
quoted in dollars, this would have an upward effect on market prices.
One of the major factors pushing crude prices higher is the perception that, as
demand increases, production capacity will not increase with it. Most of the spare
production capacity in the world market is located in OPEC countries, and, as
Figure 3 shows, spare capacity in those countries has been lower than average over
the past several years.
Figure 3. OPEC Surplus Crude Oil Production Capacity
Source: EIA, Short-Term Energy Outlook, Figure 10, May 2008
Gasoline Prices. Higher prices for crude oil tend to translate directly into
higher prices for gasoline. At the peak of the market, crude oil accounted for about
72% of the cost of gasoline. Refining, distributing, and marketing account for about
16% of the cost of gasoline, and taxes account for about 13%. However, until
recently crude oil’s share of the cost of gasoline has been more typically in the range
of 45% to 55%. In May 2007, for example, with gasoline at $3.15 per gallon, crude
oil contributed 46% of the cost; refining, distributing and marketing 41%; and taxes
13%.2 With the collapse of crude prices, contribution of crude costs to the gasoline
price declined somewhat. This trend is illustrated in Figure 4.
2 Energy Information Administration data based on March 2008 data and a base price of
gasoline of $3.24 per gallon. See Gasoline & Diesel Fuel Update [http://www.eia.doe.gov].
Figure 4. Average Annual Components of Gasoline Prices, 2000-2007
and January-September 2008
Note: 2008 data is for January through September.
Source: EIA, Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update, November 10, 2008. Data calculated
from monthly percentages by CRS.
Whether the crude oil a refiner processes is purchased on the open market or is
produced by the oil company itself, higher costs for any element in the cost of
gasoline are likely to be passed on to consumers.3 A number of factors aggravated
the pressure on gasoline prices, including limited refining capacity in the United
States, the range of fuel blends required to meet air pollution requirements, and the
mandated use of ethanol as an additive. Perhaps most important, U.S. demand for
gasoline increased as economic growth continued, at least through 2007. However,
consumption of gasoline for the first 311 days of 2008 averaged 9.01 mbd, compared
to 9.29 mbd during the same period in 2007.4 (See Figure 5.)
3 The price of diesel fuel for transportation has also surged to record levels. For details on
the relationship between diesel and gasoline prices, see CRS Report RL34431, The
Disparity Between Retail Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Prices, by Robert Bamberger and Robert
4 Energy Information Administration. Weekly Petroleum Status Report, November 7, 2008,
Figure 5. U.S. Gasoline Consumption, January 2000-October 2008
Ja n Jul Jan Jul Jan Jul Jan Jul Jan Jul Ja n Jul Ja n Jul Ja n Jul Ja n Jul O c
'00 '01 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 t
Monthly AveragesAnnual Averages
Note: The data point for October 2008 is the average for the four week period ending on 10/31/08.
Source: EIA, Monthly Energy Review, October 2008, Table 3.5 and EIA, Weekly Petroleum Status
Report, November 5, 2008, Table 10.
The 2004 price surge intensified discussion of energy policy and led to further
calls for passage of energy legislation. However, until the climax of the Katrina
disaster, the urgency of previous energy crises had been lacking. Throughout the
period, U.S. gasoline consumption continued to rise. In part, this may be because
although the price of gasoline in nominal terms set a record, in real terms it did not
appear to be reaching the level of the Iranian crisis years of the early 1980s (see
Figure 6); that is, until Katrina pushed it toward the $3.00-per-gallon mark. Further,
unlike the earlier crises, there was no physical shortage of gasoline and there were no
lines at the pump, except in local disaster-affected areas.
Figure 6. Nominal and Real Price of Gasoline, 1950-2007 and
Source: EIA, Annual Energy Review 2007, Table 5.24 and Monthly Energy Review, October
2008, Table 9.4.
As Figure 7 indicates, by the early 1990s the proportion of consumer
expenditures on oil and gasoline had declined from the high levels of the 1970s and
early 1980s. Data are not yet available to indicate what effect the price run-up
starting in 2004 has had on this measure.
Perhaps most important, the common view during the earlier crises was that oil
prices not only were high, but were destined to become ever higher in the coming
years, because world resources were probably beginning to level off and would
decline in the future. This view is no longer widely prevalent, largely because world
proved reserves have increased faster than production, and are currently more than
twice the level at the time of the Arab oil embargo in 1973.
At the beginning of the current crisis, the general expectation was that the price
increase was a temporary phenomenon. In part, this may be due to the fact that there
has been no physical shortage of gasoline or lines at the pump, as there were after the
Arab oil embargo in 1973 and the Iranian revolution in 1979. But the continued and
unrelenting increase in crude oil prices to record levels, even discounting inflation,
is leading many to suggest that changing world market conditions may have led to
permanent, or at least chronic, shortages of petroleum production capacity. The
persistent increases in world demand for oil, despite higher prices, and the inability
or unwillingness in many parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, to
develop known existing resources, appear to presage a continuing tight market, in
which production capacity is only slightly greater than demand. Under those
conditions, temporary interruptions in production, caused for example by local
political crises or weather, are much more likely than normal to force prices upward.
Figure 7. Consumer Spending on Oil as a Percentage of GDP,
Source: EIA, Annual Energy Review, 2006, Tables 3.5 and D1
Others continue to expect that growth in demand will moderate, and production
will increase to meet demand, as it did following the shortages of the 1970s. They
argue that the market price of oil appears to be much higher than production costs,
and is being sustained by the expectation of continued strong demand in the
indefinite future. In addition, they point to large profits flowing to oil producers, and
political pressure to invest those profits in increased production.
Congress has considered numerous energy policy initiatives and enacted many
of them. With the continuing pressure of rising prices, however, energy policy has
once again become the focus of attention, both in the Congress and on the campaign
Policy options include efforts to ameliorate the effects of high prices in the short
term, and to attack the longer term problem. The latter options come in three major
forms: to reduce consumption by increased efficiency without having a negative
effect on the economy; to substitute alternative fuels at a cost comparable to the oil
they replace; and to encourage production of more oil, either in this country or
The choice of these options depends to a certain extent on how the future of the
oil market is viewed. Those who consider it likely that the present tightness of the
market is likely to continue, as described above, tend to support alternative fuels and
increased efficiency, and to denigrate efforts to increase oil production as futile and
ineffective compared to the growth in world demand, which they expect to continue
indefinitely. Those who view the present tightness of the world market as an
aberration that can be relieved with adequate investment in new production capacity
view any move to increase supply, anywhere in the world, as a positive signal that the
tightness and volatility of the world oil market can be eased and prices can more
closely reflect the cost of production.
Reducing Consumer Impacts and Regulating Oil Markets. A number
of proposals are aimed at easing the impact of high prices on consumers, or are aimed
at the oil industry’s price-making policies.
Gas Tax Moratorium. Bills introduced by Senator McCain (S. 2890) and
Senator Clinton (S. 2971) would have suspended federal gasoline and diesel
transportation taxes for the summer driving season, and the proposals were a topic
in the presidential campaigns of the two candidates. Senator Obama, also
campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, criticized both proposals.
Similar bills were introduced in the House, but the issue was never taken up. (For
details see CRS Report RL34475, Transportation Fuel Taxes: Impacts of a Repeal
or Moratorium, by Robert Pirog and John W. Fischer.)
Price Gouging. The rapid increase in gasoline prices following the Katrina
disaster led to allegations of price gouging. P.L. 109-58 included a provision
requiring the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conduct an investigation into price
gouging in increased gasoline prices.
The issue reemerged in the 110th Congress as gasoline prices surged past $3.00
per gallon. On May 23, 2007, the House passed the Federal Price Gouging
Prevention Act (H.R. 1252). The bill would have banned the sale of gasoline at
“unconscionably excessive” prices during energy emergencies declared by the
president, and impose heavy fines and imprisonment for violations. The White
House complained that the bill could result in gasoline price controls, and threatened
to veto it, but the House vote of 284-141 indicated enough support to override a veto.
The Senate, in passing its version of H.R. 6, the Creating Long-Term Energy
Alternatives for the Nation (CLEAN Energy) Act of 2007 on June 21, 2007, included
a price-gouging provision similar to that in H.R. 1252. However, the provision was
not included in the final version of H.R. 6, which became P.L. 110-140.
The Consumer-First Energy Act (S. 2991) contained a provision on price
gouging similar to the previously considered measures.
Speculation in the Oil Market. The possibility that speculation has
unreasonably driven up oil prices, either because of illegal manipulation or because
a speculative bubble is underway, has led to the introduction of much legislation to
increase oversight or regulate speculation. The 2008 farm bill (Food Conservation
and Energy Act, P.L. 110-234) contains provisions expanding the role of the
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), but many other bills were
considered that would have addressed other perceived problems. On June 26, 2008,
the House passed the Energy Markets Emergency Act (H.R. 6377), which would
direct the CFTC to curb excessive speculation, price distortion and other activity that
is causing major market disturbances.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Reid proposed consideration of S. 3268, the Stop
Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008, but disagreement on how to treat
amendments on the floor blocked action. A similar bill, the Commodity Markets
Transparency and Accountability Act of 2008 (H.R. 6604), was approved by the
House Agriculture Committee July 24, 2008. It failed to get 2/3 of the vote under
suspension of the rules on the House floor July 30, but passed the House under
regular rules September 18 by a vote of 283-133. (For details, see CRS Report
RL34555, Speculation and Energy Prices: Legislative Responses, by Mark Jickling
and Lynn J. Cunningham.)
Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Authorized in 1975, SPR consists of caverns
formed out of naturally occurring salt domes in Louisiana and Texas in which nearly
and it is authorized at 1 billion barrels. The purpose of the SPR is to provide an
emergency source of crude oil that may be tapped in the event of a presidential
finding that an interruption in oil supply, or an interruption threatening adverse
economic effects, warrants a drawdown from the reserve.
Program costs for the SPR in recent years have been dedicated principally to
maintaining SPR facilities and keeping the SPR in readiness should it be needed.
Since FY1999, any fill of the SPR has been with deliveries of royalty-in-kind (RIK)
oil to the SPR in lieu of cash royalties to the federal government on offshore
production. Through FY2007, royalty-in-kind deliveries to the SPR have totaled
roughly 140 million barrels and forgone receipts to the Department of the Interior are
estimated to be $4.6 billion. DOE has projected deliveries of RIK oil during FY2008
of 19.1 million barrels and $1.170 billion in forgone revenues.
Continued fill of the SPR with royalty-in-kind oil became controversial in the
110th Congress. Critics argued against adding oil to the SPR when markets are tight
and prices remain high. They argued further that the additional oil adds little to U.S.
energy security. Supporters of RIK fill argue that the fill rate is too little to have a
discernible impact on markets, and that currently high refined-product prices are
sustained by factors other than crude supply, which is more than ample at this time.
Legislation was introduced in the Second Session (H.R. 5146, S. 2598) to
suspend RIK fill. The House bill would also have mandated a sale of 13 million
barrels of SPR oil during FY2008, with the proceeds to be spent on a number of
energy efficiency and alternative fuel programs. Both bills established conditions,
including a significant decline in crude oil prices, that would have to be satisfied
before RIK fill could be resumed. On May 13, 2008, the House passed, 385-25, a
similar bill, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and Consumer
Protection Act (H.R. 6022), which would have suspended SPR fill until the end of
2008 unless the price of oil dropped below $75 per barrel. The Senate passed the bill
on the same day, and it became P.L. 110-232 on May 19.
A further move regarding the SPR was the Consumer Energy Supply Act of
2008 (H.R. 6578), introduced by Representative Lampson. The bill would have
required the President to release 70 million barrels of high-quality crude oil from the
SPR over the next six months, a move which proponents said would lower gasoline
prices. The House took up the bill on July 24, 2008, under suspension of the rules,
which required a 2/3 vote in favor for passage. The vote was 268-157, not enough
to pass the bill. (For details see CRS Report RL33341, The Strategic Petroleum
Reserve: History, Perspectives, and Issues, by Robert Bamberger).
Energy Tax Proposals. Several legislative proposals, including Senator
Reid’s Consumer-First Energy Act (S. 2991), included a “windfall profits” tax on oil
companies, reacting to the record profits recorded in recent years. The provision was
not passed in either house, however. (For details, see CRS Report RL34689, Oil
Industry Financial Performance and the Windfall Profits Tax, by Salvatore Lazzari
and Robert Pirog.)
Oil industry tax issues were indirectly involved throughout the Second Session
during consideration of a large tax measure which included, among other measures,
extension of tax credits for renewable energy. House sponsors of the tax proposals
insisted on including measures to offset the costs of various provisions, and among
the offsets were reductions in tax benefits previously granted oil and gas companies.
The Senate declined to include offsets, and the tax bill appeared unlikely to pass, but
the Senate attached it to its version of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of
2008 (H.R. 1424, P.L. 110-343), with only a small offset provision affecting the oil
and gas industry, and that version was finally approved and became law. (For details
see CRS Report RL33578, Energy Tax Policy: History and Current Issues, by
Mid- to Long-Term Supply and Demand. Most proposals affecting supply
and demand of crude oil and gasoline would not affect the current short-term crisis
but would be aimed at longer term trends.
Fuel Economy. Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards also have
a long history of controversy, going back to their establishment in the 1970s. When
Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6, P.L. 110-140)
in the First Session, the issue was largely resolved for the time being, and did not
emerge significantly during the Second Session. (For details see CRS Report
RL33413, Automobile and Light Truck Fuel Economy: The CAFE Standards, by
Brent D. Yacobucci and Robert Bamberger.)
ANWR. Oil and gas exploration and development of part of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been controversial for many years. This was part of
the early proposals for legislation that eventually became the Energy Policy Act of
Support for the action grew gradually in the following years, along with technological
developments that advocates claimed would reduce the environmental impact of
development. Numerous attempts to open the region for leasing have been made, and
both the House and the Senate at various times approved measures that included
leasing provisions, but none of them have survived to become law. (For more
details, see CRS Report RL32838, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR):
Legislative Actions Through the 110th Congress, First Session, by Anne Gillis, M.
Lynne Corn, and Elizabeth A. Roberts.)
Savings Goals. A number of legislative proposals would have set goals for
reducing oil consumption. An example is the Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006
(S. 2747), introduced by Senator Bingaman May 4, 2006, which would have required
the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop an action plan to
save 2.5 million barrels per day (mbd) in 2016, 7 mbd in 2026, and 10 mbd in 2031.
Alternative Fuels. In his January 31, 2006 State of the Union message,
President Bush asserted that the United States is “addicted to oil,” and set the goal
of replacing more than 75% of oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. The main
thrust of the presidential initiative was to increase funding for research in producing
ethanol from plant fiber biomass (rather than from corn), for improved batteries for
hybrid automobiles, and for hydrogen fuels.
In his next State of the Union speech, on January 23, 2007, the President went
further, setting a goal of reducing gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years, through
a combination of more stringent fuel economy standards and setting a mandatory
renewable fuels standards of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by
2017, about five times the current consumption. The Energy Policy Act of 2005
(P.L. 109-58) set a target of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.
On June 21, 2007, the Senate passed its version of H.R. 6, the Creating Long-
Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation (CLEAN Energy) Act of 2007, including
a provision requiring production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol in 2022. The final
version of the bill, P.L. 110-140, set a modified standard that starts at 9.0 billion
gallons of renewable fuel in 2008 and rises to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Of the
latter total, 21 billion gallons is required to be obtained from cellulosic ethanol and
other advanced biofuels. (For more details, see CRS Report RL34265, Selected
Issues Related to an Expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), by Brent D.
Yacobucci and Randy Schnepf.)
OCS Leasing. The moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Outer
Continental Shelf (OCS), except in the central and western Gulf of Mexico and some
parts of Alaska, was subject to increasing controversy during the Second Session.
The moratorium was maintained both by a Presidential ban and by provisions
included in the annual appropriations measures for the Department of the Interior,
which administers oil and gas leasing on federal lands.
On July 14, 2008, President Bush lifted the executive ban on the OCS imposed
in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. Republicans in Congress attempted to
bring up measures that would open up some parts of the OCS for leasing, but were
unable to bring their measures to the floor either as stand-alone bills or as
amendments to other bills. Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey refused to
bring the FY2009 Interior appropriations bill before the committee, preventing
Republicans from introducing OCS amendments to it.
On September 16 the House passed H.R. 6899, the Comprehensive American
Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act, which would have opened up the
OCS for limited oil and gas leasing. The bill passed by a vote of 236-189, despite
objections by Republicans that it was too restrictive. The Senate did not take up the
With most of the non-defense FY2009 appropriations bills, including Interior,
not considered, the Congress took up a continuing resolution to fund those programs
until March 6, 2009. On September 24, the House passed H.R. 2638, the
Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act,
2009, without a provision extending the OCS leasing ban. The bill passed the Senate
September 27 and was signed by the President September 30 (P.L. 110-329). (For
details see CRS Report RL33493, Outer Continental Shelf: Debate Over Oil and Gas
Leasing and Revenue Sharing, by Marc Humphries.)
H.R. 1424 (Patrick Kennedy). Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of
2008. Includes tax provisions including extensions of renewable energy credits, and
offsets affecting the oil and gas industry. Became P.L. 110-343 October 3, 2008.
H.R. 1596 (Ferguson). Clean and Green Renewable Energy Tax Credit Act of
H.R. 2419 (Peterson). Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. Contains
provisions expanding the role of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for
certain energy derivatives. Enacted May 22, 2008, over the President’s veto (P.L.
H.R. 2448 (Kuhl). Emergency Gas Price Relief Act of 2007.
H.R. 2638 (Price). Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing
Appropriations Act, 2009. Appropriates funding for the Department of the Interior
without the provision extending the moratorium on OCS oil and gas leasing. Became
P.L. 110-329 September 30, 2008.
H.R. 5146 (Lampson). Invest in Energy Security Act. Would suspend SPR
fill, and sell SPR oil to finance an Energy Independence and Security Fund.
H.R. 6022 (Welch). Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and
Consumer Protection Act. Passed the House and the Senate May 13, 2008. Became
P.L. 110-232 on May 19, 2008.
H.R. 6349 (Marshall). Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Oil
Prices Act of 2008.
H.R. 6377 (Peterson). Energy Markets Emergency Act of 2008. Passed the
House June 26, 2008.
H.R. 6578 (Lampson). Consumer Energy Supply Act of 2008. Would release
oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months. On July 24,
failed by the Yeas and Nays (2/3 required): 268-157.
H.R. 6604 (Peterson). Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability
Act of 2008. On July 30,2008, in the House, on motion to suspend the rules and pass
the bill, as amended, failed by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 276-151.
S. 2598 (Dorgan). Strategic Petroleum Reserve Fill Suspension and Consumer
Protection Act of 2008.
S. 2890 (McCain). A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to
provide for a highway fuel tax holiday.
S. 2896 (Snowe). Diesel Tax Parity Act of 2008.
S. 2958 (Domenici). American Energy Production Act of 2008.
S. 2971 (Clinton). A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to
provide for a suspension of the highway fuel tax, and for other purposes.
S. 2991 (Reid). Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008.
S. 3268 (Reid). Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008. Cloture
motion on the motion to proceed to the measure presented in Senate 7/17/2008.