Franken still frustrated with gas prices
U.S. Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today pressed the nation’s top energy official to act quickly to address recent spikes in gasoline prices in Minnesota and across the country.
In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the senators urged the Department of Energy to take steps to combat gasoline-price increases, specifically, preventing the simultaneous maintenance shutdowns of several regional refineries.
Recent record price spikes in Minnesota have been attributed to routine refinery shutdowns, forcing drivers to pay more just ahead of the summer driving season.
Minnesotans are paying more for gas than anyone else in the nation — nearly 40 cents more per gallon than the national average and nearly $1 more than just a few weeks ago, apparently because of the refinery shutdowns.
Gas prices over $4.25 per gallon are “taking a toll on families and businesses across the state,” Franken said in a statement today. “I am pushing the Department of Energy to prevent future skyrocketing gas prices and to provide better information to alleviate future pain at the pump.”
According to minnesotagasprices.com, Minnesotans were paying an average of $4.27 per gallon of unleaded regular self-serve this morning. That compares to the national average of $3.68.
Statewide, prices ranged from $3.99 in southern Minnesota to $4.44 in International Falls. Duluth prices hovered at $4.31 this morning.
Wyden is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Franken is chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy. The two urged DOE officials to report on the impact of planned refinery shutdowns, which is required under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. DOE stopped publishing the reports and collecting data from refineries in 2011. The reports, produced by DOE’s Energy Information Administration, were intended to help oil companies avoid shutting down multiple refineries in the same region of the country at the same time.
“We write to express our concerns over the recent spikes in gasoline prices, most recently in the Midwestern region of the country, and earlier this year on the West Coast,” the senators wrote to the Department of Energy head. “These increases have been attributed by the Energy Information Administration and other analysts to the impact of planned refinery outages in these regions and are causing motorists in these regions to pay some of the highest gas prices in the nation. We are writing to urge you to take action to remedy this situation by restoring EIA’s program to track planned refinery outages.”