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    No Price Gouging Found

    FTC: Market forces spurred gasoline price increases last spring, summer.

    Market forces, not price gouging, caused the cost of gasoline to rise during the spring and summer of 2006, according to a report by federal antitrust regulators.
    The report said U.S. pump prices surged -- as high as $3.02 a gallon, on average, in mid-August 2006 -- as a result of increased customer demand, the rising cost of crude oil and ethanol, refinery outages and other factors, the Associated Press reported.

    "Our targeted examination of major refinery outages revealed no evidence that refiners conspired to restrict supply or otherwise violated the antitrust laws," according to the report by the Federal Trade Commission.

    But the five-member FTC's vote to issue the report was not unanimous. Commissioner Jon Leibowitz issued a dissenting statement that said the oil industry should not view the findings "in any way a vindication of its behavior."

    Leibowitz said the FTC simply developed a "theoretical model for why gasoline prices likely increased" and noted that a separate investigation into gasoline pricing after hurricanes Katrina and Rita did find examples of price gouging by refiners, according to the Associated Press report.

    In April 2006, while the FTC was completing its investigation of gasoline pricing following Katrina, Bush directed the Justice Department to work with the commission and the Department of Energy to conduct inquiries into rising gasoline prices.

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