Even though the U.S. Attorney General has already begun an inter-agency investigation into the manipulation of oil prices, three senators have asked the Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and Consumerist pal, to investigate possible price fixing by this country’s oil refiners.
“Recent reports have indicated that U.S. refiners are cutting back on U.S. gasoline stockpiles in order to artificially keep prices high and inflate their bottom line,” reads the letter to Leibowitz from Senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Patty Murray and Claire McCaskill. “According to information posted by the Energy Information Administration U.S. refiners are using only 81.7 percent of their capacity, a decline of 7 percent from the same time last year. Moreover, since the beginning of 2011 U.S. refiners have seen over a ninety percent increase in their refining margins. While some have argued that this increase is due to potential impacts from recent flooding along the Mississippi River, this cannot justify the steady increases in their margins since January of this year.”
Before the letter had even been sent, a rep for Valero Energy, the country’s largest independent refiner told Reuters that the current low oil plant capacity is due to refiners doing annual spring-time maintenance to gear up for higher summer season demand.
Democrats push for federal probe into ‘price fixing’ by oil refiners [Houston Chronicle]