A Central Coast Congresswoman, alluding to past manipulation of energy markets by Enron and others, is asking a federal agency to investigate the sharp rise in gasoline prices in California, which have jumped by more than 50 cents per gallon in the past week.
“This sudden spike in gas prices is incredibly hard on consumers and small businesses up and down the Central Coast,” Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) wrote in a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
“The unique circumstances surrounding this price spike raise serious questions regarding possible market manipulation that demand an immediate investigation,” she wrote. She called such an investigation “critical” to the local economy.
Capps asked Leibowitz to “utilize its regulatory authority and responsibility to ensure that Californians are not subject to any market manipulation.”
Quoting the AAA fuel grade report, Capps wrote that California broke the state’s record on gasoline prices four days in a row, “while prices in other states have seen no comparable spike.”
“The average price for a gallon of regular gas in California is now $4.671, the highest in the United States. This price jump has left motorists in our state paying an average of 84.4 cents a gallon more than they were at this time last year,” she wrote.
Capps also cast doubt on reports that the price boost is rooted in refinery outages.
“Publicly available data appear to confirm that market fundamentals are not to blame for rising gas prices in California,” she wrote. “This raises concerns that California refiners may be taking advantage of unusually low gasoline inventories for this time of year in order to further increase prices.”