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.