Online Petition By OilWatchDog.Org Asks for Special Session
Santa Monica, CA — With gasoline prices surging past last year’s records nationally, and even more markedly in California, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights today asked Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders to call a special legislative session to address the price spikes. FTCR’s website, OilWatchdog.org, also launched a public petition drive demanding legislative and regulatory action to bring down prices by increasing supply.
“Consumers are filled with helpless rage at the 20-cent price increase over the last two weeks,” said Judy Dugan, research director of FTCR and its energy web site, www.OilWatchdog.org. “In California, they’re also seeing a pattern of unexpected refinery outages and extended maintenance, which looks all too similar to the market-shorting of the 2001 energy crisis. An online petition may not have the force of law, but it allows citizens to apply pressure to their elected officials, the only people who can take direct action.”
Though there are obvious differences between gasoline and electricity, the public perception that oil companies and refiners are gaming supplies should remind Schwarzenegger of the consequences to former Gov. Gray Davis, ousted from office in part for his failure to act during the energy crisis, said FTCR. The bottom line of this price crisis is that oil companies have declined to increase their capacity to make gasoline to meet current demand, and any outage, either planned or unplanned, spikes the price and ultimately increases profits.
“If oil companies won’t make enough gasoline to allow prices to moderate, and if they can’t keep their refineries running properly, they need more oversight,” said Dugan.
FTCR suggested that the supply of gasoline could be overseen by the Public Utilities Commission, just as it oversees the electricity business, but would leave it to lawmakers to decide the right course of action. The group also urged that the Schwarzenegger administration to investigate profiteering by oil companies and refiners, conducting the probe more seriously than its “see no evil” investigation of last year’s record gasoline prices, said FTCR.
“Oil companies have spent over $90 million on state politics since 2006 to buy political silence about high gasoline prices,” said Jamie Court, president of FTCR. “It’s time Governor Schwarzenegger bucked the $3,855,703 his political committees have received from the oil industry and forced a conversation about this problem. If Schwarzenegger refuses to even kick-start start the debate about an issue of this magnitude for California motorists and businesses, then he is the girlie man.”
A steady stream of comments from readers of OilWatchdog.org have showed the frustration of drivers. One writer in the Sierra foothill town of Jackson, south of Sacramento, said: “On May 2 at noon, gas [at one local station] was $3.13. At 6:00 AM on May 3, it went to $3.29, then at 11:00 AM the same day, it went up to $3.49 per gallon. Please tell me how it can be justified to go up 36 cents per gallon in less than 24 hours, when the barrel price of oil went down $2.00. Please do something about this.”
“Drivers are beginning to understand the disconnect between crude oil prices and gasoline prices — that gasoline keeps going up even as oil is down,” said Dugan. “California dealers for Shell and Chevron report about another 7 cents worth of increase in their delivery prices late last week and over the weekend, which haven’t all worked their way into the retail prices, so the price spike hasn’t ended yet. No wonder drivers are pleading for someone, anyone, to act.”
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a leading nonprofit and nonpartisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and www.OilWatchdog.org.