The energy investigators who nailed Enron for energy price manipulation that nearly bankrupted California just took aim at oil refining giants including Chevron and BP. May the refiners’ gasoline-price schemes now come crashing down in an Enron-style heap.
We’ve known for years that California and West Coast refiners find endless ways to shut down some of their gasoline production, cutting supplies and jacking up pump prices. They actually make more money from making and selling less gasoline. It explains why West Coast drivers are stuck paying $4-plus a gallon while pump prices take a dive in the rest of the country. Now a credible study and a U.S. Senator have reached the same conclusion–and trying to put some muscle on the oil industry.
Washington State Sen. Maria Cantwell is probably the best-informed on the petroleum industry of all federal legislators, at least among those not joined at the hip with Exxon. She is calling on the the Federal Trade Commission to investigate six major refiners–Alon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Tesoro and BP. It’s a smart move, because the oil lobby has a stranglehold on Congress and most state legislatures. President Obama has tried at least twice to reduce the industry’s billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and gotten nowhere.
Here’s the gist of the story by McClatchy news service’s Kevin Hall: