Democratic News


 Jeff Bingaman, top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, today joined in co-sponsoring two amendments aimed at helping Americans cope with high energy costs.

Bingaman co-sponsored an amendment (#1695) to the Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill which will provide emergency relief -- through affordable, low-interest loans -- to small businesses hit hard by the record increases in home heating oil, natural gas, propane, gasoline and kerosene prices.  The proposal also would amend the emergency loan program at the Agriculture Department so that family farmers and small agricultural enterprises will have access to affordable loans if their businesses suffer from soaring energy prices.

“Many small businesses have limited cash reserves to cover unexpected or substantial increases in energy costs,” Bingaman said.  “Commercial loans are not readily available for these kinds of emergencies, and this legislation will help small business owners, farmers and ranchers get help they very much need.”

Bingaman also co-sponsored an amendment (#1703) aimed squarely at price gouging.  The amendment requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the sky-high gasoline prices which socked American consumers after Hurricane Katrina.  For the period immediately before and after the hurricane, FTC investigators will be directed to 1) probe for any evidence of price gouging throughout our nation’s fuel supply system and 2) compare and explain changes in average monthly profit levels for companies involved in the production, distribution and sale of motor fuels.

(NOTE: Energy reporters may remember that variations of both of these amendments were included in the Senate-passed energy bill.   A less-detailed version of the price gouging proposal was included in the energy conference report, but the emergency loan provision was dropped in conference.)


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