With gas prices climbing to unsavory highs, President Obama has ordered the creation of an oil-markets task force at the Department of Justice.
Questions have already been raised over whether DoJ can actually do anything to help with oil prices, or if this is more of a show move, wherein Obama appears to be taking an active measure.
It's worth pointing out that, in the spring of 2008, as oil prices rose and as Republicans started blaming then-House-speaker Nancy Pelosi and making a lot of noise about domestic energy production in the presidential election year, House Democrats actually called for something similar.
In May 2008, House Democrats passed a bill by then-Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wisc.) that would have required DoJ to create an oil antitrust task force, which would have sought out unfair collusion in U.S. and foreign oil markets. From a story I wrote about it for The Hill:
House Republicans have recently blamed Pelosi for high gas prices. In floor speeches and press releases, they have pointed to an increase in gas prices since Democrats took the majority in Congress in 2006, dubbing the increase the "Pelosi Premium."
The bill would create a DoJ task force to investigate, and report annually to Congress on, the effect of international oil cartels, potential price gouging, and potential collusive behavior to restrict oil production. The task force would enforce oil companies' compliance with existing antitrust laws, and could recommend changes to those laws to Congress.
Foreign entities, under the bill, could be prosecuted in U.S. courts for collaborating to restrict production, set the price of oil, or restrain the trade of oil, if those actions affect the price of petroleum products in the U.S.
The bill also calls for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on how oil company mergers may have affected the price of oil.
The bill never made it to a Senate vote. Legislation moves slowly in the summer of a presidential election year.