WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) announced the formation of the Gas Price Task Force, naming Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan as one of the members on the task force. Today, task force members sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting information on how market practices, including possible price gouging, may be affecting gasoline prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The task force also sent a letter to the President of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) asking for additional information on gasoline trading practices and requesting any pricing and volume analysis conducted after Hurricane Katrina.
Ryan was asked to participate in the Gas Price Task Force because of his extensive work to bring common sense to the nation’s fuel system and address the problem of seasonal and sudden gasoline price spikes linked, in part, to highly specialized, “boutique” fuel blends. The task force will push for information, answers, and action to help ease the nation’s fuel supply crisis and bring down soaring costs.
“We made progress this summer when the energy bill that contained my fuels legislation became law, and the EPA has been using our waiver provision to provide greater flexibility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. However, more needs to be done,” Ryan said. “We need the most accurate, up-to-date information on all parts of the gasoline supply chain, to ensure drivers don’t fall victim to price gouging. And we must press forward with streamlining our fragmented gasoline system to prevent avoidable fuel shortages. I will be pushing for this as part of new energy legislation expected to be considered by Congress this year,”
The task force letter that was addressed to the Chairwoman of the FTC, asks the following questions:
What has the FTC’s Gasoline Price Monitoring Project revealed in the weeks since Hurricane Katrina?
What is the FTC’s analysis on the fluctuation of prices at the wholesale level since Hurricane Katrina?
Can the FTC provide an analysis of changes in gasoline inventories the week before Hurricane Katrina and the week following Hurricane Katrina? Is there an analysis on how inventories affected price?
Data indicate that while prices jumped 44 cents between August 29th and September 2nd for branded stations – or those flying the flag of a major refiner – wholesale prices for unbranded (independent) stores rose 73 cents per gallon. What is the FTC’s explanation for such a large discrepancy?
In addition, the task force is drafting a letter to the refineries’ organizations, about the status of restoring the refineries’ capacity and operations.
Prior to last week, the task force sent a letter to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encouraging the EPA to extend existing motor fuel specification waivers to give gasoline and diesel fuel inventories a chance to more fully recover. In that letter, the task force also inquired about the status of additional waiver requests, including requests to waive the federal reformulated gasoline program. The EPA has extended various regulatory waivers in certain areas of the nation where it has deemed an “extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstance” continues to exist.