POLITICS/BUSINESS: Gasoline pricing, "surprising" fluctuations?: "Oil refiners are manipulating California gas prices, consumer advocates say" ....
* Los Angeles Times: "Oil refiners are manipulating California gas prices, consumer advocates say" - From the LAT:
Filling up at the pump is often painful in California, where drivers tend to pay more for gasoline than in most other states. Many industry watchers attribute the high fuel costs to unique forces — chiefly California's clean-burning gasoline formula — that have isolated the market and kept it tightly balanced between supply and demand. But some consumer advocates and politicians allege that price manipulation by oil refiners is to blame.
This year, price fluctuations were especially surprising. The price of crude oil began falling last summer, with pump prices following.
Whether those higher prices are a natural economic reaction or a sign of collusion between companies is up for debate.
Jamie Court, president of Santa Monica consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, thinks something smells rotten. "The public is used to paying $4 a gallon for gas but doesn't realize that with crude at $60 a barrel, the gas price should be a dollar less than it is right now," he said. "Unless you drive through another state, you don't realize how outrageous it is." Part of the problem, Court said, is that the state has a small group of companies able to set prices as they please — the definition of an oligopoly .........................