Gasoline conspiracy?

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission announced the findings to its latest gasoline price fixing study.
The agency’s answer: There has been no illegal market manipulation of fuel prices.
According to the FTC report, the congressionally-mandated commission found:
• No evidence that refiners have attempted to jack up prices by running their facilities below capacity to restrict supply.
• No evidence oil companies have reduced their inventories to exacerbate the effects of price spikes.
• No evidence that refinery expansion decisions over the last 20 years were a coordinated attempt to manipulate prices.
The FTC did find 15 instances after Hurricane Katrina that fit the congressional definition of “price gouging.” But even in most of those cases, the FTC says the high prices could be explained by local or regional market trends.
“The conduct of firms in response to the supply shocks from the hurricanes was consistent with competition. In particular, firms diverted supply from lower-priced areas to higher-priced areas, firms drew down their inventories, refineries not affected by the hurricanes increased output, and gasoline imports increased,” according to the FTC.
The report is the latest in a long string of FTC investigations into alleged gasoline price fixing schemes that have taken place over the years. Time and again the investigations come back saying there is free-market competition in fuel prices but no vast conspiracy.
Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, is not satisfied. Slocum blasted the FTC for being “increasingly political” and “favoring big oil.”
What say you?