Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Consumer Group Presses for Explanations for Gas Price Spikes|
By Hector Gonzalez
Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit education and advocacy group based in Santa Monica, and philanthropist Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate, a nonprofit pro-environment political action committee, sent a letter Monday to three California senators who held a hearing last month into why gasoline prices spiked by $1 in February while the price of crude remained low.
While the March 24 hearing was “vital to giving consumers a fair shake at the pump,” it raised more questions than it answered, Court and Steyer said.
The hearing “provided some tantalizing insights into the opaque workings of the gasoline market” and confirmed that the market “is rigged to the benefit of an oligopoly and the rules need to be changed to benefit consumers rather than the oil industry,” Court and Steyer said in the letter.
The letter was sent Monday to state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, chairman of the Senate Energy, Utility and Communications Committee, and Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, who heads the Transportation and Housing Committee. The three chaired last month’s hearing, “Up Like a Rocket Down Like a Feather: The State of California’s Gasoline Market.”
Court and Steyer noted that although the lawmakers invited oil company executives to testify at the hearing, Western States Petroleum Association instead paid economist Phil Verleger to speak on their behalf.
According to Court and Steyer, Verleger dodged direct questions about refinery shutdowns and gas price hikes and offered a vague response when Hueso asked whether refineries should have to publicly justify their prices hikes as is done with auto and home insurance, the letter said.
“It’s outrageous that the oil industry would refuse to answer for the $550 million extra California consumers were forced to pay in February for their gasoline above the U.S. average, particularly as the hearing proved the oil companies were the ones profiting from California’s price spike,” said the letter.
Court and Steyer called on the lawmakers to demand answers from oil executives about why refineries didn’t increase supplies in February “when it became clear that prices were going to spike” and why California refineries consistently keep one week less of gasoline inventory than the rest of the country.
“If oil company executives refuse an invitation to answer these and other questions, we urge you to use your subpoena power to compel them to testify,” wrote Court and Steyer.
“In addition, others with knowledge about refinery operations should be brought forth under oath to answer these outstanding questions.”
|copyrightCopyright 1999-2015 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.||Disclosures|