Fuel prices soar: 'Americans getting mugged,' one senator says

| Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The average U.S. retail price of diesel fuel shot up to $1.724 from the previous average of $1.679, the Department of Energy reported April 12.

The highest prices are in California, at $2.260; New England, at $1.757, $1.835 in the Rocky Mountain region; the Central Atlantic region, at $1.742; and on the West Coast, where the average price is $2.112.

Other prices included the Lower Atlantic region, where the average price is $1.624; the Midwest, at $1.679; the Gulf Coast, at $1.639; and the East Coast, at $1.665.

Prior to the Energy Department’s announcement, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, spoke April 19 on the Senate floor: "Every president should be willing to stand up to OPEC and to the Saudis to protect American consumers from higher gas prices … Today, the president should turn up the heat on OPEC and help reduce the pressure on the budgets of American families."

Wyden also said “Americans are getting mugged at the gas pump,” and he spoke for the need of a comprehensive push on OPEC to lower fuel prices,

Wyden has introduced a resolution calling on President Bush to pressure OPEC nations to increase oil production. Senate Republicans subsequently moved to block debate on the measure.

The resolution (S. Res. 330), mirrors legislation authored in 2000 by the current U.S. Energy Department secretary, then-U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-MI, and the current U.S. Attorney General, then-U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft, R-MO, calling on the Clinton administration to pressure OPEC for higher output to stabilize oil prices.

In a related development, 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.

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