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    Group Calls on Calif. Lawmakers to Act on Spiraling Gas Prices

    Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights launches online petition.

    SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- With gasoline prices surging past last year's records nationally, and even more markedly in California, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) has asked Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders to call a special legislative session to address the price spikes.

    FTCR's website, OilWatchdog.org, also launched a public petition drive demanding legislative and regulatory action to bring down prices by increasing supply. The petition can be accessed by clicking here.

    "Consumers are filled with helpless rage at the 20-cent price increase over the last two weeks," Judy Dugan, research director of FTCR, said in a written statement. "In California, they're also seeing a pattern of unexpected refinery outages and extended maintenance, which looks all too similar to the market-shorting of the 2001 energy crisis. An online petition may not have the force of law, but it allows citizens to apply pressure to their elected officials, the only people who can take direct action."

    The FTCR argue that the bottom line of this price crisis is that oil companies have declined to increase their capacity to make gasoline to meet current demand, and any outage, either planned or unplanned, spikes the price and ultimately increases profits. "If oil companies won't make enough gasoline to allow prices to moderate, and if they can't keep their refineries running properly, they need more oversight," Dugan said.

    FTCR is suggesting that the supply of gasoline be overseen by the Public Utilities Commission, just as it oversees the electricity business, but would leave it to lawmakers to decide the right course of action. The group also urged the Schwarzenegger administration to investigate profiteering by oil companies and refiners, conducting the probe more seriously than its "see no evil" investigation of last year's record fuel prices.

    "Oil companies have spent over $90 million on state politics since 2006 to buy political silence about high gasoline prices," alleged Jamie Court, president of FTCR. "It's time Governor Schwarzenegger bucked the $3,855,703 his political committees have received from the oil industry and forced a conversation about this problem. If Schwarzenegger refuses to even kick-start start the debate about an issue of this magnitude for California motorists and businesses, then he is the girlie man."

    The FTCR is a nonprofit and nonpartisan consumer watchdog group.

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