Diesel prices continue to climb amid finger pointing in DC

| Monday, April 24, 2006

As Congress began to put pressure on President Bush to combat rising prices, diesel prices jumped 11.1 cents for the second week in a row in the week ending Monday, April 24.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the national average price for diesel rose to $2.876 per gallon, its highest price since October 2005.

The biggest jump came in California, where prices skyrocketed 17 cents to $3.103 per gallon, the first time that state has been above the $3 mark since October. The rest of the West Coast climbed 14.5 cents to $3.026 per gallon.

The Rocky Mountain region also saw a tremendous spike, rising 14.7 cents to $2.903 per gallon.

The lowest average was found in the Gulf Coast region, at $2.817 per gallon. The Midwest wasn’t far behind at $2.847 per gallon.

The East Coast as a whole posted an average of $2.88 per gallon. Within that region, New England came in at $2.961 per gallon, while the Central Atlantic was the highest at $2.978 per gallon. The Lower Atlantic was at $2.843 per gallon.

Meanwhile, another round of finger pointing has begun in Washington, DC, as legislators sought to place the blame for rising fuel costs squarely on the shoulders of the oil companies that have posted record profits during the past year.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, called on Congress to consider a windfall profits tax on oil companies. A similar tax – 50 percent on profits from oil sold at more than $40 a barrel – was proposed by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, in fall 2005.

In early April, Specter introduced separate legislation that would beef up antitrust enforcement and to help “promote competition in the oil and gas industries in order to reduce fuel costs,” according to a press release on his Web site.

In addition, that legislation would prevent oil and gas companies from withholding oil and gas in an effort to raise prices.

Specter told CNN’s “Late Edition” on Sunday, April 23, that something needs to be done about these problems.

“Windfall profits, eliminating the antitrust exemption, considering the excessive concentration of power are all items we ought to be addressing,” he said.

Bloomberg reported that Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, called on President Bush to call oil company executives to the White House and tell them he’ll support a windfall tax unless they lower their profits.

“I’ll bet that the price of gasoline would come down within a matter of days,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, were planning to send a letter to the president on Monday, April 24, asking him to direct the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to investigate alleged price gouging on the part of the oil companies.

The letter also asked Bush to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to issue waivers to make it easier for oil refiners to produce adequate fuel supplies.

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