Even as crude oil prices have receded from summer highs, gasoline prices in New England and in other parts of the country have not, raising price gouging and manipulation as potential causes of this abnormality in the fuel market, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) charged today.
In a letter sent to the head of the Federal Trade Commission today, Rep. Markey asks the agency to investigate potential price manipulation that is causing harm to New England families and businesses. Rep. Markey also expressed concern that potential manipulation could also impact home heating oil prices, delivering a one-two punch to New England families.
"It is critical that any abnormalities in the gasoline markets be dealt with immediately. If fuel prices are being kept unnaturally high by manipulation, the consequences for consumers and our economy could be significant," writes Rep. Markey. "Inflated gas prices would mean that consumers will have less money available to spend elsewhere, damaging the nascent economic recovery."
Rep. Markey's letter notes that while prices have risen substantially in California due to refinery outages, most of the rest of the country is seeing gas prices steadily ease as a result of falling crude prices. Yet New England has neither regional refinery outages nor receding prices. Gasoline prices in the region have risen by 4 cents a gallon since September 10th. Crude oil prices today are similar to what they were in mid-July, yet gasoline prices in New England are more than 40 cents per gallon higher today than they were in mid-July.
Families in New England are also facing higher costs for heating oil as the winter heating season approaches. The EIA forecasts that households heating with heating oil are already set to see their costs rise by $407 dollars this winter to nearly $2500.
"Costs to heat with heating oil have increased nearly $1,000 over the last six years, which is part of the reason why we have had 1.4 million families switch away from home heating oil in the Northeast over the last eight years," said Rep. Markey. "If the price of fuel oil is being manipulated, consumers are being gouged first at the pump, then again at the oil furnace."