FTC preparing subpoenas for oil, refinery companies over high gas prices

Subpoenas to oil companies and refiners are being prepared by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as it probes rising gasoline prices, a person familiar with the matter said.

The FTC called oil companies and refiners in the past three to four weeks to alert them to stand by for the subpoenas, said the person, who declined to be identified because the calls were confidential.

President Barack Obama announced in April an interagency task force to investigate potential fraud in oil markets as a possible cause for the run-up in fuel costs. Five Democratic senators sent a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on May 17 asking the agency to look into gasoline-price increases, saying reports at the time indicated U.S. refiners were restricting production to boost prices.

The FTC will “take action whenever we find wrongdoing,” Leibowitz said at the time. FTC spokesman Mitch Katz declined to comment yesterday on whether the agency is preparing subpoenas.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.69 compared with $2.74 a year ago, according to AAA’s daily fuel report.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world’s biggest gasoline producer, hasn’t been notified it will receive a subpoena by the FTC, said Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for the Irving, Texas-based company, in an e-mailed message. John Roper, a spokesman for Houston- based ConocoPhillips (COP), said in an e-mail that “as a matter of policy, ConocoPhillips won’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

Valero, Marathon

Bill Day, a spokesman for San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp (VLO), the largest independent U.S. crude refiner, said he was unaware of any contact the FTC has had with the company about a potential investigation. He said Valero wouldn’t comment unless a subpoena had actually been issued.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. hasn’t received “any request or subpoena,” said Angelia Graves, a spokeswoman for the Findlay, Ohio-based refiner. She wouldn’t comment on whether the company had been notified of an investigation.

Lloyd Avram, a spokesman for San Ramon, California-based Chevron Corp. (CVX), declined to comment on whether the second-largest U.S. oil company had been contacted by the FTC.

The FTC’s Bureau of Economics regularly scrutinizes price movements in about 20 wholesale regions and almost 400 retail points across the country, according to the agency’s website. FTC attorneys and economists respond to suspect pricing episodes as they arise, the agency says.

36 Comments

  1. TThunderbolt

    Another ploy to divert attention away from the fact that this administration has performed absymally in regards to an energy policy that would actually drive oil/gasoline prices down. Selling off national reserves is just one example of this administration’s ineptness. Pathetic.

    #1
  2. Elections are on the horizon so it is getting time to dress up the crowd to make it look like something is being done. They will have hearings, spend millions of tax payer dollars, make accusations, and then back to business as usual. This is nothing but window dressings.

    #2
  3. jj

    The current administration’s war on industry continues………..

    #3
  4. BlueJayWay

    Why such unwarranted high fuel prices?
    Big Oil and it’s downstream tentacles don’t like the idea of their welfare (tax breaks/subsidies) being threatened or cut off from this administration – so what to do?
    Keep prices artificially high, make all consumers mad as hell and so they can remember this at Nov 2012 elections – and then sweep in the corporate friendly Republicans to power, in all the branches of government, so Big Oil can still control us.
    Now, how does it feel to be held hostage monetarily, by your Republican puppets, to their corporate masters – Big Oil?

    #4
  5. pdh42

    Another attempt by the goose stepping Nobama trying to put his boot on the necks of the energy companies…. Hope and Change will not stop until he is out of office in 2012 or until the energy companies bow down to him….

    #5
  6. electric rodeo

    The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.69 compared with $2.74 a year ago, according to AAA’s daily fuel report.

    thats because you closed half the wells in the gulf and you wont let us drill in Alaska,California or Florida ! Wake up people ! This President cares more about his own agenda than the American people or the economy! He runs stuff into the ground and then blames everyone else for what his socialist agenda caused !!!

    #6
  7. TxBigfoot

    TOP 12 REASONS TO VOTE FOR DEMOCRATS

    ….for those who don’t know WHY they would!!!!

    When you encounter people who cannot explain why they voted for Democrats, give
    them this list. They can then pick their reasons from this “TOP 12″

    1. I voted Democrat because I believe oil companies’ profits of 4% on a gallon
    of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15%
    isn’t.

    2. I voted Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of
    spending the money I earn than I would.

    3. I voted Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is
    offended by it.

    4. I voted Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know
    that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves.

    5. I voted Democrat because I believe that people who can’t tell us if it will
    rain on Friday can tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years
    if I don’t start driving a Prius.

    6. I voted Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being
    aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.

    7. I voted Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health
    care, education, and Social Security benefits.

    8. I voted Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to
    make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to
    the government for redistributiont.

    9. I voted Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the
    Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their
    agendas past the voters.

    10. I voted Democrat because I think that it’s better to pay $billions to other
    countries for their oil and who hate us, but not produce our own because it is
    ecologically inappropriate.

    11. I voted Democrat because while we live in a great, wonderful country in the
    world (and now one of the poorest and the most indebted), I was promised “HOPE
    AND CHANGE”.

    12. I voted Democrat because my head is so firmly planted up my butt, it’s
    unlikely that I’ll ever hear another point of view.

    #7
  8. Rick

    Then after this investigation let’s have one about the rising costs of cable/internet service.

    #8
  9. Brian

    The administration has a point. They open some of the strategic reserves yet prices continue to climb. Plus, they are trying to keep prices in check in order to ensure it doesn’t impact the recovery.

    #9
  10. Bill

    “Big Oil – blah, blah, blah”. Clueless twit.

    #10
  11. luckyone

    Smoke and mirrors. How about we subpoena the government for destroying our ability to produce our own energy? Fire Obama in 2012!!

    #11
  12. Mark

    Subpeona this you democrat socialist fascist pigs.

    #12
  13. XLR8R

    TxBigfoot, I think you just perfectly described BlueJayWay!

    THANKS!!

    #13
  14. Ricky Forrest

    “right wingers” are always using forums, like this and politics, to spread their hate propaganda. Loughner and Norways Terrorist massacres are fueled by the “right wingers” hate programs. “Shock n Awe” terrrorism is all the “right wingers” use from #1 Boehner to the little guy on the street or at the work place. High oil and Gasline prices are just one of the “right wingers” tools and prove corps managers are the financiers of domestic terrorism.

    #14
  15. Kurt

    As much as i would like these investigations to have an effect, Nothing will come of it but the same nonsense. Oil companies will say gee we don’t set prices it is driven by the market. Feds will say good enoug for us case closed. That is until citizens start complaining again.

    #15
  16. ntangle

    Unlike some commenters that want to blame prices on everything from Wall St. firms to Soros or whatever the boogieman / red herring du jour is, I believe fuel prices are largely driven by demand. And crude prices are driven by the fuel-making demand, to the extent OPEC allows. However, there are interesting price anomalies in a couple of Padds in the US. When a specific area has limited sources and access, it’s only natural to look for signs of anticompetitive practices. Not sure what if anything the FTC will find, but it’s worth looking.

    #16
  17. BOB

    txbigfoot

    I am sure the Chronicle will support all of those points you made. I agree with those wholeheartedly.

    #17
  18. misplaced yankee

    Well said Texas Bigfoot. As to Brian, what recovery? Mass layoffs are happening,again despite Stimulus I at the expense of $278,000 per job saved/
    created. Releasing the oil reserves did nothing to keep the price of oil from
    rising. The release was equal to the average use of oil used per day by the US. The reality is that the release was perception that Obama was doing something about oil prices when the real truth is that oil is headed to $5 a gallon next year because this Administration has absolutely no clue of what to do and when to do it in anything, foreign or domestic.

    #18
  19. Trail Trash

    Nothing like a good old fashion witch burning right before election time.

    #19
  20. DandyDon_dd

    Subpoena obama and his cronies..end of story

    #20
  21. TXtombstone

    Tell’em like it is Bigfoot.

    #21
  22. Trail Trash

    Oh my goodness. I’m afraid tirades like Ricky Forrest’s is more of what we can expect as the elections get closer. It’s no longer enough to try and label conservatives as being racist, now they are going for the hate monger thing too.

    #22
  23. O&GMan

    The refining and sales downstream market is complex and I seriously doubt the courts will even begin to understand how they work. If the EPA hadn’t imposed such onerous regulations on refiners the oil companies wouldn’t have sold off so many of them and we would have enough capacity to refine products now. The Feds may have created a lot of this themselves.

    #23
  24. Indianpaintbrush

    I see the price of many things rising, not just oil. It couldn’t have anything to do with the devaluation of the dollar, could it?

    #24
  25. Mark

    I’m sure the fact that Obama has banned drilling has nothing to do with the cost of what remains going up.
    I think the oil companies should simply agree to limit the amount they make on every gallon to be the same amount as the federal and local governments make on each gallon.
    That will increase gas prices by about 46 cents per gallon, but it would be akin to what the democrats call a “balanced” approach of “shared sacrifice”. Dont you think?

    #25
  26. Tex

    I laugh every time I see the government going after big oil. The market prices are the problem, not the oil companies. Speculators have a big influence on market prices. It’s the government’s own fault for not regulating financial derivatives. Don’t allow people to buy crude futures when they do not own any physical crude inventory… problem solved. It’s like allowing multiple people to take out an insurance policy on a house that they don’t own and then they can burn it down for a huge profit… doesn’t make any sense. Commodity derivatives should only be allowed for hedging physical inventory. Otherwise, the market is more unstable and we see these artificially inflated prices and then the huge drop later on.

    #26
  27. Kropotkin

    Every year feds investigate big oil for big profits…every year nothing is found…more fed BULLSH@T

    #27
  28. blue

    How could a Republican nut possibly know why people vote Democrat. If he had any sense HE would vote the Democrat ticket. But he is probably one of the loons who believes he knows what God is thinking also.

    #28
  29. Goldwinger

    Here’s what the democrats WANT… total control over everything from what we eat to how much money we will be allowed to make to even whether or not we get healthcare.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqjFBiPMmBE

    Make no mistake about it, they ARE wanting to take over EVERYTHING. Waters didn’t misspeak. She just let the cat out of the bag.

    By the way, you DO know that she’s still under an ethics investigation, don’t you? You won’t read about that here. This “newspaper” is run BY democrats, FOR democrats.

    #29
  30. Chuck

    I want an investigation into the Ethanol bunch to understand why my food prices keep going up.

    #30
  31. wantingbalance

    Obama’s guys are mad because the federal gasoline tax is “fixed” at a certain amount per gallon and they can’t collect any more of the average driver’s money when gasoline prices go up.

    #31
  32. AnAubis

    The gig is up. Bust them up and make them pay like they make us pay. Crude prices go do gasoline prices stay flat or go up. like now when they think we are not looking and focused on the debt debate. Pop them in the pocket; a turnabout is fair play.

    #32
  33. TransAmer99

    Here we go again, the quarterly pilgramage to Mecca… I mean DeeCee.

    Get this, folks, the profit to the oil companies on a per gallon basis averages less than ten cents. Most are in the 2-5 cent-per-gallon realm. And the Idiots-in-Charge want to reduce that. Look, the billions in profits do not relate to price-fixing, colaborative gouging or conspiring to screw the consumer. Rather it is indicative of the consumers appetite for energy by purchasing billions upon billions of gallons of gas at a nickle a gallon to the oil companies.

    Let’s also remember that not all profits are related to the sale of gasoline. Integrated energy companies market a diverse portfolio of products derived from hydrocarbons.

    #33
  34. Joe

    The FTC will “take action whenever we find wrongdoing,”
    ——————
    …and they won’t, as usual, because there is none. Go after big pharma. You’ll find something there for sure. But that’s not what this is about. This is simply a diversion of the real news to hide the agendas of this loser president we have in the White House.

    #34
  35. Gizmo084

    “Greed” has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat.
    I’m a right winger and I’m for capitalism. However, there is no reason why Oil companies should be making “billions” of dollars in profit per quarter while the country keeps going downhill. It’s obvious the government benefits from collecting taxes from gasoline sales and from company earnings without moving a finger; But I refuse to pay for a basic product that has been over inflated because of greedy speculators and by the government to damage oil corporations with senseless rules and agencies – may I say EPA!
    At the end of the day, “We the People” pay the price and we should not do so anymore…..

    #35
  36. Bill

    What the heck has taken so long? It would mean more if it wasn’t a fund raising tool used by “ALL THE WASHINGTON POLITICIANS” they will make a bunch of noise like last time but in the end nothing will happen except campaign coffers will overflow.

    #36