Cantwell calls for investigation into gas prices

Cantwell calls for investigation into gas prices »Play Video
SEATTLE -- The high price of gas in Washington state has drivers fuming, and now Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling on the federal government to investigate rumors that gas is being shipped overseas while local prices continue to rise.

This isn't the first time that Cantwell's been upset over local gas prices, but she says now's the time to find out why Washington drivers are being clobbered at the pump.

Cantwell recently demanded the Federal Trade Commission investigate the issue.

"They have a program that is supposed to look at market anomalies and investigate them," Cantwell said. "So we are saying, 'This is your job now, you need to do it.'"

Tourists and locals alike have more than just rain to get mad at.

"Doesn't make any sense, considering we are sitting on the Alaska Pipeline," said driver Eric Schryba.

One of the reasons for the price jump was the recent fire at the BP refinery at Cherry Point. But a new report from McCullough Research in Oregon asks why other plants didn't step in and cancel scheduled maintenance work to keep prices stable.

The report says the sudden price shift provided a significant windfall for refineries and retailers. McCullough says higher gas prices in the west may have generated a windfall of $43 million a day, and that's why Cantwell wants the FTC to take a look.

"To investigate whether they have either manipulated this supply by purposely taking it off line at precisely the time when they should be selling into the market. And, secondly, did they do things recklessly at great damage to our economy," Cantwell said.

Despite Cantwell's calls for an investigation, most drivers are skeptical.

"They might investigate, but it's like every other time they do an investigation, everyone sits around and twiddles their thumbs and says, 'Yeah, there's a problem,' but nothing ever happens of it," Schryba said.

A regional representative form the Western States Petroleum Association said his organization will cooperate fully with any investigation.

He also said the petroleum industry is one of the most regulated in the United States and that all producers follow the rules. He predicts the government will find prices followed supply and there was no manipulation.