Elias: Energy price manipulation found on two fronts

Anyone who thought manipulation of California energy prices ended with the criminal penalties assessed against executives of companies like Enron and Williams Energy after the state’s 2000-2001 electricity crunch turns out to have been hopelessly naive.

All the available evidence now suggests price-fixing continues not only in electric power, but that gasoline is also in play.

 

Senators seek U.S. probe of refineries’ actions in gasoline market

The six senators representing the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington are sending a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. today, calling for an investigation into possible manipulation of the gasoline market by refineries that serve the region.

In the letter the senators say an investigation is needed to determine whether false or misleading information was used to create a perception of a fuel supply shortage. That might have helped boost fuel prices, the senators say.

Senators ask U.S. to probe California gasoline prices

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Six U.S. senators on Tuesday called for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether market manipulation by West Coast oil refiners contributed to a price spike in May and October that sent gasoline prices to record highs above $5 a gallon.

The senators, all Democrats, want the Justice Department to conduct a “refinery-by-refinery probe” and subpoena records from California refineries to see whether public reports of maintenance shutdowns were accurate. Two of the state’s largest refiners are Valero Energy Corp and Tesoro Corp.

Consumer advocates say refineries may have falsified information

Consumer Watchdog, saying that refineries operating in the state may have falsified information to help boost gasoline prices, wants the California attorney general to launch a criminal investigation.

The advocacy group made its request in a letter to state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris.

“It appears that California’s oil refineries falsified public information to drive up the price of gasoline,” Consumer Watchdog’s president, Jamie Court, and energy project director, Liza Tucker, said in the letter.

Rachel Maddow Investigates Gas Price Manipulation in CA [VIDEO]

Rachel Maddow: “What was it about the price spike in May and then again in October that seemed suspicious to you? Is there something that tipped you off to start questioning whether or not that was a legitimate price spike just explained by supply and demand?”

Senator Maria Cantwell: “Well, my constituents tipped me off that they were frustrated gas was going towards $5. What they knew is that one refinery went down, but why was everybody else saying that they were offline or a lot of the market response basically saying the price spike was caused by a shortage? We want the FTC and the Department of Justice to be the policeman on the beat on something so important as gas.