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    Lawmakers Call for FTC Review of Oil Refiners

    The senators question why gas prices have not fallen faster as crude oil prices drop.

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- With gas prices inching their way down cent by cent, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are calling for an investigation into U.S. oil refiners.

    Schumer's request for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into the refiners comes in the wake of new reports that suggest refiners are cutting back on gasoline stockpiles in an effort to decrease supply and inflate the pump prices, according to a press release from Schumer's office.

    Specifically, the release cites Energy Information Administration data that show refiners are operating at just more than 80 percent of their capacity. This equals a decrease of 900,000 barrels per day when compared to 2010 output levels. Schumer pointed to the fact that gas prices have barely fallen below $4 per gallon in Syracuse, N.Y., despite crude oil prices coming down in recent weeks.

    "At a time when major refiners and oil companies are making record profits and New York families continue to struggle with gasoline at record prices, the idea that refiners may be manipulating the market to keep prices artificially high is offensive," Schumer said speaking at a Syracuse Sunoco gas station this morning. "When the price of oil goes up, gas shoots up like a rocket -- but when it goes down, the price of gas falls like a feather. That's just not right. As the price of crude oil and the use of gasoline decline, there are clear signs that refiners may be stockpiling oil, which keeps prices high. I urge the FTC to immediately investigate and ensure that New Yorkers are not being victimized by this type of manipulation."

    In a letter co-signed by Sens. Schumer, McCaskill, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the legislators formally asked the FTC to investigate the issue and pointed out it is currently within the FTC's authority to review the allegations for any potential wrongdoing.

    "It is incumbent upon the commission to ensure that the American people are protected from this type of manipulation. Accordingly, we request that the commission open a full investigation into these allegations of wrongdoing and to determine the impact this behavior, if confirmed, has on regional and national gasoline prices," the letter stated.

    According to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.843 today, down from $3.852 yesterday and $3.955 a week ago.

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