Diesel prices rocket

| 4/14/2004

The average U.S. retail price of diesel fuel rose to $1.679 from the previous average of $1.648, the Department of Energy reported April 12.

The highest prices were in California, at $2.162; New England, at $1.748, also the price in the Rocky Mountain region; the Central Atlantic region, at $1.721; and on the West Coast, where the average price is $2.026.

Other prices included the Lower Atlantic region, where the average price is $1.596; the Midwest, at $1.631; the Gulf Coast, at $1.605; and the East Coast, at $1.640.

Anticipating price spikes, eight senators last week endorsed a bill that would give federal antitrust agencies authority to file suit in U.S. courts against members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for alleged price gouging, Gannett News Service reported.

The fuel supply system is "vulnerable" to severe price spikes if major refinery or pipeline outages occur, DOE's Energy Information Administration said in its annual summer forecast.

Record high fuel prices are caused by high crude oil prices, which OPEC has brought about by limiting supplies, said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-OH.

“If OPEC were a group of international oil companies getting together to set prices and cut output, it could be prosecuted under U.S. antitrust law,” he said at a Senate hearing on the bill April 7. “But to this day, OPEC continues to receive special treatment under U.S. antitrust law.”

Suing OPEC is one option Congress is considering to reduce prices. Other approaches include a stalled Senate energy bill and possible investigations by the Federal Trade Commission of alleged price-fixing by domestic oil companies.