Santa Monica, CA – Consumer Watchdog said today that the retail price per gallon of gas in California has soared 53 cents between February 2, when Tesoro began shutting down its refinery in Martinez, through today. A regular gallon of California gasoline now costs an average of $2.96 a gallon.
Consumer Watchdog has twice written state officials, calling for them to investigate artificial price manipulation–once after the Martinez shutdown, and once after an explosion and fire damaged Exxon's Torrance refinery on February 18. The group has not yet heard back.
“It’s clearly time for lawmakers to hold refineries accountable through public hearings,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker.
The shutdown of Tesoro’s Martinez facility, paired with the Exxon Torrance blast, affects 16.5% of California’s refinery capacity.
As soon as steelworkers began to strike, Tesoro announced it would shut down its Martinez facility completely rather than leave it partially running for routine maintenance and gas prices began to soar in a straight line. That line spiked sharply again right after the Torrance explosion.
The price of gas tracks the price of crude oil. Crude has risen from a low of $45 a barrel at the end of January to $50 a barrel today. But the price of regular gas in California has risen more steeply than in the rest of the United States where an average gallon of gas costs about $2.31 a gallon.
“The state needs to ensure that refineries, making almost all our gas due to our special more environmentally-friendly blend, don't take advantage of consumers,” said Tucker. “They have every reason to try to raise gas prices by restricting supply and capitalizing on windfall profits while they can.”
In its December report, Pump Jacking California’s Climate Protection, Consumer Watchdog warned that oil companies might artificially cut back on gasoline production and inflate gasoline prices to undermine new rules to control greenhouse gas emissions. The report can be viewed here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/OilIndustryManipulationReport.pdf