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Spike In Crude Oil But Not Gas Prices | Oil Watchdog

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Spike In Crude Oil But Not Gas Prices

CONTACT:By 310-392-0522, ext. 305, or cell: 213-280-0175

Tue, Oct 16, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Spike In Crude Oil But Not Gas Prices

    Spike in Crude Oil Price to $88/Barrel Without New Run-Up in Pump Price Exposes Oil Industry Deception, Profiteering;

    Oil Companies’ Claim That Crude Oil Costs Drive Gasoline Price Makes No Sense With Today’s Barrel Prices Up More Than 40% Over Spring, When Pump Prices Hit $3.25/Gallon

    Santa Monica, CA — The oil industry’s longstanding argument that
    high gas prices in recent years were driven by the rising price of
    crude oil would leave motorists paying about $4.50/gallon at current
    oil prices if the industry claim was accurate, said the Foundation for
    Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and its OilWatchdog.org project. The group
    said that the current national average of $2.76/gallon spotlights the
    profiteering of the spring gasoline price highs and the increasing
    politicization of gasoline pricing.

    “If crude oil prices were the real driver of gasoline prices,
    we’d be paying $4.50 a gallon for gasoline today, based on the $3.25
    that drivers were paying back in May,” said Judy Dugan, research
    director of FTCR and OilWatchdog.org. “Of course, those record prices
    in the spring were not tied to the price of crude oil either.”

    In a radio interview in April 2006, the chief oil industry
    energy analyst, John Felmy of the American Petroleum Insitute, said
    flatly: “The market factors that have caused the price of gasoline to
    go up can be traced to the cost of crude oil and the cost of
    manufacturing gasoline — nothing more, nothing less.” API
    advertisements saying the same thing appeared in print as gasoline
    prices rose to records in the spring of 2006 and again this year. (See the Felmy statement here and the API print ad here.)

    This argument is inconsistent with reality, charged FTCR, and so
    is oil companies’ more recent argument that prices react to
    “competitive” supply and demand.

    With the price of a barrel of oil hitting $88, the price of
    gasoline is flat nationwide and has been that way for two months of
    sharply rising crude oil prices, noted the nonprofit, nonpartisan FTCR.
    In fact, at $2.759 a gallon, per AAA, pump prices today are
    substantially lower than the $3.20 a gallon national average this
    Spring, when crude sold for just over $60/barrel.

    “There is no way left to connect the price of gasoline to the
    price of oil,” said Dugan. “The key factor is what amount of refining
    profit the oil companies are willing to seek, and for what reasons. In
    the absence of a connection to oil prices, politics is certainly part
    of it. This year, threats by Congress to pull back oil subsidies and
    pass a law against price gouging peaked along with gasoline prices. Oil
    companies and refiners reacted to save their hides.”

    FTCR also pointed to last fall’s precipitous drop in the price
    of gasoline, which trimmed oil company profits in the weeks before the
    November 2006 election. Gasoline prices rose again immediately after
    the election, despite falling oil prices, and were further boosted by
    President Bush’s announcement in January that he would increase the
    size of the Strategic Oil Reserve. (See FTCR analysis of pre-election pricing here.)

    If oil companies switch to a “supply and demand” argument about
    gasoline prices, that does not get them off the hook for two years’
    worth of price manipulation, said FTCR.

    “Oil companies exert nearly complete control over the supply of
    gasoline, through decisions about their refineries, their oil and
    gasoline imports, and the supply they keep on hand,” said Dugan. “They
    can roughly tune the supply to match their price targets.” (See OilWatchdog’s report on supply manipulation here.)

    FTCR has called for regulation of the supply of gasoline in
    order to protect against the manipulation of pump prices for excessive
    profit and at times political gain.

    – 30 –

    FTCR is California’s leading public interest watchdog. For more information, visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Also check our energy issues site: www.OilWatchdog.org.

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