High gasoline and diesel prices have been the main topic of discussion for Congress this week. Presidential candidates have also been partaking in the debate with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) advocating a tax holiday over the summer months. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) also issued an assessment on gas prices which outlines previous attempts by Congress to address the issues. PMAA is reviewing the CRS report in detail.
On the issue of futures market reform, numerous Members of Congress and separately Senate Republicans have discussed the issue this week and some may introduce new legislation. Senate Democrats are working on gas price legislation and Senator Dorgan (D-ND) has been advocating an increase in margin requirements for speculators. Sen. Dorgan is also working to include an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill (H.R. 2881) that would halt all oil deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) until the price of oil falls below $75 a barrel. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) has also introduced his own bill, S.2927, to halt oil deliveries to the SPR. While Senator Dorgan’s (D-ND) proposal incorporates a price trigger on halting deliveries to the SPR, Republicans are proposing a six month freeze on deliveries to the SPR without a price trigger. It is not yet known if the Democrats will support the Republican proposal.
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is voicing his concern that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has driven food prices to unprecedented levels. He has proposed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should use its authority to waive all or portions of the RFS mandates as part of its rulemaking process. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, announced plans to introduce legislation to stop national biofuel production at current levels for 2008.
Meanwhile, it looks like the Farm Bill will get another two week extension. Lawmakers are close to an agreement, but need time to make some adjustments to farm subsidy caps. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said that the House and Senate intend to make substantial cuts to farm subsidy caps and will have the votes necessary to override a veto. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that he expects the House to take up the final version of the bill next week.