BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Gas prices are dropping, but not fast enough for Senator Chuck Schumer. And he thinks he knows who is to blame for pumped prices.
Senator Schumer is calling for an investigation of the major oil refineries by the Federal Trade Commission. Schumer says refineries are generally at the low end of the profit scale, but in the past year, the Senator contends they have pumped up profits by manipulating supply and demand.
Though pump prices have fallen in the past week, Buffalo businesswoman Deborah Bischoff says they are still cutting into her bottom line.
Bischoff said, "And just the same routes are costing us $50 to $100 a week to do in our vehicle because of that, because of the high gas prices. It's just making it more and more difficult for us."
Senator Charles Schumer blames the oil refineries, saying their profits are rapidly rising, and he is calling on the FTC to investigate possible price fixing. Schumer says, profits for America's largest oil refiners have more than doubled in the last year and he suspects they are manipulating the market by reducing their capacity for refining crude oil to gas while shipping nearly a million gallons of finished product overseas.
Schumer said, "At a time of almost record high gasoline prices and oil prices, we're exporting 900,000 barrels of oil a day to other countries."
But a spokesman for the petroleum industry says there's more to this story.
"The fact is, refineries have produced a record amount of finished gasoline this year," said John Felmy.
Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute says, the reason capacity seems to be down at the refineries is Congress's doing. By law, the oil companies are blending more than 12-billion gallons of ethanol in with gasoline.
Felmy said, "They mandated a record amount of ethanol. And so, in the gasoline pool, the amount that comes out of refineries is getting less because of the increased share of ethanol."
Schumer says the real point is bringing down gas prices.
"I think if tomorrow the FTC simply announced they were looking into the refining capacity, my guess is the price would go down within the next week," said Schumer.
Schumer also believes a series of government misfires have allowed "Big Oil" to concentrate too much control over energy into too few hands.
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