Higher prices at the pump likely stem from an unusually high number of disruptions in Midwest refinery operations, according to the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
To help protect consumers from being illegally gouged at the pump, the Attorney General’s office closely monitors the price of gasoline sold at the retail level, compares the pump prices to the local and state averages, and reviews trading prices on the futures market and other statistical data.
“The recent spike in gasoline prices at the retail level in Indiana is due to a drop in the Midwest region’s oil supply, seven of the 16 Midwestern refineries have all recently experienced closures as a result of planned maintenance and unplanned technical issues. These disruptions have trickled down to the retail level and Hoosiers are feeling the pinch at the pump,” said Tom Bodin, chief economist in Attorney General’s office.
The seven refineries experiencing issues are within the top 10 largest Midwestern refineries including the top three by output volume. Many of the refinery issues experienced over the past several weeks are resolved or being resolved, but it will likely take time before consumers see lower prices again.
According to industry experts, the return of normal output from the majority of the Midwest’s largest refineries will increase supply back to the Midwestern market and will eventually lead to lower retail prices. The Attorney General’s Office received 80 gas-price related complaints so far this month and just 15 complaints in all of May.
Uncharacteristically, Indiana has the fourth highest gasoline prices in the U.S. with an overnight average price of $4.12. That’s behind Hawaii ($4.36), Michigan ($4.23) and Illinois ($4.15). These prices are in stark contrast to the retail pricing seen throughout 2013.
From Jan. 1 to June 1, Indiana averaged $3.59 for regular grade gasoline. That’s $0.08 lower than the $3.67 average observed for the same period in 2012. Over the last seven days Indiana retail gasoline prices average $3.91, this a $0.31 increase over the $3.60 seen for the same period in 2012.
The Attorney General’s office has authority over retail price gouging and the Federal Trade Commission has jurisdiction over wholesale price gouging. Illegal pricing activities can include agreements between retailers to fix prices, deceptive sales acts or excessive prices during a state of emergency.
Hoosiers who want to report suspected price gouging at retail stations can do so by calling the Attorney General’s Office hotline toll-free at 866-241-9753.
For more information about how the Attorney General’s Office tracks gas prices, visit www.IndianaConsumer.com and click on “Gasoline Prices” in the menu. Driving efficiency tips and a gas savings calculator are available on the website to help drivers determine the potential savings by increasing fuel efficiency.
Source: Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Inside INdiana Business