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WASHINGTON -- As gas prices creep closer to the $5 point, the Justice Department is taking the reins in the battle against fraud and manipulation at the pump.
Speaking at a renewable energy plant on Thursday, President Barack Obama said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was putting together the Financial Fraud Enforcement Working Group, according to the Associated Press. "We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain," Obama said.
However, Holder has suggested legal reasons may be behind the increase in gas pumps, which is reaching $4 in some states and have almost hit the $5 mark in others. "Based upon our work and research to date, it is evident that there are regional differences in gasoline prices, as well as differences in the statutory and other legal tools at the government's disposal," Holder said in a memo accompanying the task force announcement. "It is also clear that there are lawful reasons for increases in gas prices, given supply and demand.
"Nonetheless, where consumers are harmed by unlawful conduct that has the effect of increasing gas prices, state and federal authorities will take swift action," he added.
According to the news outlet, the national average price per of a gallon of regular gas was $3.84 on Thursday, the day of the announcement. That price is approximately 30 cents higher than a month ago and almost $1 higher than a year ago.
Despite the pump prices taking a turn in the national spotlight, Obama has acknowledged there may not be much he can do about the price of gas in the short term. As the news outlet reported, gas prices have been on a steady incline because of tensions in the Middle East and northern Africa, and growing demand in emerging economies like China.