The administration, in a statement last week, said the federal government "has all the legal tools necessary to address price gouging," The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday. The White House contends language in an energy bill before Congress would be unenforceable because it is too vague and is just a way to control prices, the newspaper said.
The House of Representatives version passed last month would direct the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to investigate allegations of profiteering or any signs an oil seller "is taking unfair advantage" of unusual market conditions. The Senate version would not be triggered unless the president declares a national energy emergency.
About 29 states have some form of anti-gouging laws, Ben Lieberman, an energy expert at the Heritage Foundation, told the Monitor.
He noted the Federal Trade Commission determined the price surge following Hurricane Katrina resulted from damage to refineries, not gouging.
"There have been many investigations and time and time again the industry has been exonerated," he said in the Monitor article.