NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

No Shortage Of Investigations Into Oil Companies

July 6, 2000

Escalating gasoline prices have prompted the Federal Trade Commission to launch an inquiry into the activities of large oil companies. The commission once again joins a long list of government agencies which have investigated the industry and failed to come up with any evidence of "price gouging" and collusion.

  • At least eight probes of the industry have been launched in the past decade -- and none of them came up with evidence of criminal behavior by the companies.
  • Even the FTC says it has examined industry records over the last 10 years and has been unable to name any probe that has found anti-competitive activities or price-fixing.
  • The FTC hasn't brought even a civil complaint against the industry.
  • In addition to the FTC investigation, at least three other government agencies this year alone have looked into how the oil industry is functioning.

The Congressional Research Service looked into gasoline-price spikes in the Midwest and concluded they were due to higher crude prices, mandated use of ethanol, pipeline problems, low inventories and reformulated gasoline patent problems.

In its probe, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration concluded that retail prices for gasoline and diesel fuel were driven mostly by the rise in world crude prices and low inventories.

The General Accounting Office looked into gasoline price behavior in California and attributed erratic prices to refinery outages there that disrupted supply and demand.

Source: Douglas Austin, "Will Latest Investigation of Big Oil Turn Out to Be Yet Another Bust?" Investor's Business Daily, July 3, 2000.


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