|Ramsey Cox||November 17th 2012|
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Thursday that she would ask the Department of Justice to probe this yearâ€™s gas price spikes. Cantwellâ€™s announcement came after a new report was released Thursday raising questions about whether artificial shortages were occurring in May and October while West Coast gas prices skyrocketed above $4 per gallon. â€œWe need a true cop-on-the-beat policing the vital oil market,â€ Cantwell said in a statement. â€œThatâ€™s why I plan on asking the Department of Justice to investigate on a refinery-by-refinery basis and get the answers consumers deserve.â€
The McCullough Research report stated that oil production in California actually increased during the month of May, meaning prices shouldn't have increased because of a lack of supply and high demand. The report also said refinery fires were blamed for the price spikes, but "the lengthy delay between cause and effect makes these explanations suspect." â€œWashingtonians were hit hard this year by gas price spikes supposedly caused by supply disruptions,â€ Cantwell said. â€œThis report indicates that the gas price spike may have been caused by more than just supply and demand.â€
According to the McCullough report, the October price spike added up to a 66-cent-per-gallon windfall profit for oil companies â€” or about $25 million a day. Cantwell said the difference between what drivers actually paid and what they should have paid exceeded $1 billion. Earlier this year, Cantwell asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into why her home stateâ€™s gas prices spiked in May, while national average prices fell.
Ramsey Cox writes for The Hill, from where this article is adpted.