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Florida governor's office condemns Commissioner Nikki Fried's call for gas emergency

'We need to be doing everything possible to help lower prices,' Fried says in letter to governor
Posted at 11:40 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 11:40:11-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Florida gas prices continue to hit record highs, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has called for an emergency declaration to help.

The governor's office, however, is not interested.

Fried, a Democrat and candidate for governor, sent her rival a letter seeking the declaration Thursday. She said the order from Gov. Ron DeSantis would free her to suspend state rules prohibiting gas retailers from selling below cost.

"If a state of emergency is issued, my Department would then be able to issue an emergency order suspending statutory provisions in Chapter 526, Florida Statutes, that prohibit gasoline retailers from selling gasoline below cost to customers," Fried wrote. "We need to be doing everything possible to help lower prices for Floridians in need, and I am eager to take this step to lower gas prices — which my Department can only take during a state of emergency."

During a later press conference, Fried said there was interest from some retailers she spoke with, despite gas stations taking a loss to make it happen.

"A lot of retailers, actually, all of their profits come from the convenience stores," the commissioner said. "They don't make their income or profits from selling the gas."

The governor's office was quick to condemn the idea.

Press Secretary Christina Pushaw called it "delusional" in a statement, suggesting small businesses could suffer and aggravate the problem.

"Large corporate-owned chains would be able to temporarily lower prices because they can afford to take the loss for a short period of time," Pushaw said. "Small businesses would not be able to compete, and would go out of business, limiting the supply of gas. Without as much competition in the market, and with lower supply, the large corporate-owned chains can then raise their prices higher than ever to recoup their losses. This is Economics 101!"

DeSantis has regularly blamed the president for high prices. The Republican has often said the nation needs to ramp up domestic fuel production to ease the crisis.

The governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature also championed a gas tax cut earlier this year. The governor recently signed it into law.

Floridians can expect a 25-cent per gallon gas tax cut in October. But, critics point out that it won't take effect until just before the midterm election and lasts only a month.

There is an effort on the federal level to curb gas prices.

The U.S. House passed a price-gouging measure Thursday to prevent excessive increases. It, however, faces an uncertain future in the Senate.