Motorists who are sick of getting hosed at the gas pump may get some help. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced Friday that he will convene a hearing on soaring gasoline prices that he contends have “no reasonable explanation.” The Hill reported on Wyden's announcement.
Pump prices have been rising at a historic clip
Gasoline prices have risen by fifty cents a gallon since the beginning of the year—more in certain areas.
“I think you ask the question, ‘what is going on to make the prices go up so dramatically now?’ The custom has always been — one we didn't enjoy in America but it has been sort of a tradition — [that] prices go up in the spring. We are still in the winter,” Wyden said.
“There is no reasonable explanation for this right now. The Iranians are not rattling around this week in the Straits of Hormuz, we have not see any kind of unusual developments, that is why I want to look at a whole host of issues, and one that hasn’t been on the table at all has been the question of refineries,” Wyden added.
The AAA agrees with Wyden that gas price increases are not normal.
“Gas prices increased at a dramatically faster pace than expected in February,” said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement. “Motorists unfortunately are paying more for gasoline than ever at this time of year, and it is primarily because of a decline in refinery production and higher wholesale futures prices.”
Earlier this year Democratic Senators asked for an investigation into questionable activities by refineries. In one case, a refinery used an alleged shut down to justify high prices, but California air pollution monitoring showed the refinery was producing gas at the time it was supposed to be closed.
So far there is no report on that investigation.
It seems that whenever gasoline prices drop, refineries suddenly need to close for “maintenance”—or at least say they are shut down. This is reminiscent of the Enron fleecing of utility customers early a decade ago with contrived shut downs.
Republican talking points debunked
The irony in this apparent fleecing is that domestic oil production hit a 20 year high at the end of last year. So much for Republican rhetoric that their “drill baby drill” energy policy results in $2.50 a gallon gasoline.
It appears the more we drill, the more we pay for gasoline.
Increased output from North Dakota and Texas pushed daily production to more than 7 million barrels per day, the highest mark since December 1992 according to the U.S Energy Information Agency, which tracks these things.
The domestic spike is coming from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in shale and other tight rock formations. The drilling method injects a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the rocks to tap gas and oil buried deep underground.
Gas prices are manipulated by refineries and Wall Street speculators
The industry wants us to believe gas prices are due to supply and demand, but for the most part, that is a bunch of hooey. Refineries manipulate the supply to keep prices high. The price of crude oil is somewhat influenced by global supply and demand, but evidence is mounting that speculation and profiteering by Wall Street traders is the main reason gas prices spike. High futures are a main cause of current gas price spikes, and there is no reason for the high futures.
Perhaps Senator Wyden’s Committee can pressure the parties that are making billions at our expense to fleece us a little less. Sometimes, the light of day scares off evil doers.