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SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

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SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

Old 09-07-2005, 01:55 PM
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Default SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/apps...=2005509070323


Gas-price gripes draw state review
School bus fleet running low on fuel

Posted Wednesday, September 7, 2005 - 6:00 am

By Jenny Munro and David Dykes
STAFF WRITERS
jmunro@greenvillenews.com

Gasoline prices in South Carolina have barely budged despite the supply chain's return to normal operations, and that has caught the eye of state Attorney General Henry McMaster.

Trey Walker, spokesman for McMaster, said Tuesday his office had received more than 150 complaints from the public of perceived price gouging or illegal gas-pricing activity since gasoline spiked in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"We are reviewing those complaints and based on that review will make a determination what, if any, action is warranted," he said.

Also, state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum said Tuesday the state's school bus fleet is running low on fuel and is in search of 20,000 gallons for the rest of this week.

The state's 5,000 buses use 66,000 gallons of fuel each day, she said, and do not have enough to finish the week, even without field trips, which many school districts statewide have cancelled. Greenville County schools spokesman Oby Lyles said Tuesday the district was assured last week it would have enough gas to finish last week and get through this week.

South Carolina -- often one of the four or five states with the lowest average gasoline prices -- now is among the higher-cost states, according to AAA's gas gauge, which posts daily average gasoline prices.

Nationally, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.041 Tuesday, down from $3.057 on Monday and $1.849 a year ago.

South Carolina's average price was $3.135 on Tuesday, according to AAA. That's down from $3.15 on Monday and up from $1.74 a year ago. The Greenville area posted an average price of $3.116 a gallon, down from $3.138 on Monday and $1.687 a year ago.

Of six Southeastern states, North Carolina was the only one with a higher average price -- $3.140. Florida, usually a higher-cost state than South Carolina, had an average price of $2.985 Tuesday.

McMaster today planned to meet with representatives of the state's petroleum industry to determine "when consumers can expect for the price to subside," now that the two pipelines that crisscross the Southeast are running and it appears retailers are receiving supplies without great difficulty, Walker said.

While state law only allows prosecutors to deal with complaints of price gouging during a state of emergency declared by the governor, McMaster has other options, Walker said.

"There are two avenues available for the Attorney General to pursue if the evidence warrants -- that is unfair trade practice and anti-trust," he said.

McMaster on Friday said he had joined a multi-state inquiry into rapidly increasing gas prices.

Attorneys general in more than 35 states want to find out whether the dramatic increase in gas prices is due solely to legitimate market forces, or whether illegal activity is exacerbating the problem, McMaster said.

Steve Spinks, president of Greenville-based Spinx Oil, said that short-term prices are up in the state because of a shortage of gasoline at the Belton and Spartanburg terminals.

"It's a short-term pinch," he said. "It should be over in a couple of days."

Tom Crosby, AAA Carolinas spokesman, said gas prices nationwide appear to have peaked and are declining.

"I can't tell any real difference," said James Allen, who was putting $15 worth of gas in his red 1996 Ford Ranger. "I just buy what I have to have to get around right now."

E. Sims Floyd Jr., executive director of the South Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association, said gas retailers have seen a significant drop-off in demand over Sunday and Monday.

Tom Kloza of the Oil Price information Service told USA TODAY that prices probably will go up again during the next two weeks before settling down.

Unless another hurricane damages the U.S. petroleum infrastructure, "I think the highest prices you may see until February are over in the next 15 days," he said.

Tenenbaum said the state's fuel supplier has informed officials it doesn't have enough to meet the state's normal needs.

Officials are considering fuel cards to allow buses to fill up at commercial pumps. But if gas stations are running low, that strategy might not work.

Suppliers are determining where the gas will be sent, she said, and if Gov. Mark Sanford requests them to send more to the bus fleet, the system should be OK.

Tenenbaum said her department's fuel budget was based on a price of $1.80 per gallon. That price, absent sales tax, is now $2.67 per gallon.

The hope, she said, is that if the fleet can hold on for two or three weeks, supplies will return to normal.

Plantation Pipe Line resumed full service Friday and Colonial Pipeline returned to its normal operations late Monday, the companies said. The two companies supply most of the Upstate's gasoline.

-- Staff Writers Tim Smith
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Old 09-07-2005, 01:58 PM
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Default Re: SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

I hope y'all burn some arses!!
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Old 09-07-2005, 04:34 PM
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Its about time.
 
Old 09-07-2005, 04:59 PM
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Default Re: SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

Everytime the prices spike up, we get the demands for investigations, accusations of price gouging, etc.

But I have never seen the results of all these investigations. It just sort of disappears.

My suspicions are that there must be some reasonable explaination, and then the whole thing just goes away.

were this not the case, and there really are evil price gougers out there,
the trials of the guilty parties would rival Enron for exposure.

How come we never see the results after all the political grandstanding?


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Old 09-07-2005, 06:41 PM
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I filled up my Ranger last Friday with 60.00 worth of gas @ 2.99 a gallon. It was right on E....I never thought anything of it til I read an article on 2 brothers in Detroit that been ripping the public for 5% of their fuel...They were actually getting 5% less...60.00/2.99 came to over 20 gallons....My tank is only 18.....It will do me no good to b!tch at the station as they are just minimum wage attendents but I did call the State...I will not buy gas there anymore and I will also be paying more attention when I buy elsewhere... So beware....price gouging isn't the only thing going on...

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Old 09-07-2005, 06:41 PM
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Default Re: SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

The funny thing about all this is that when gas jumped last week, it did so when there wasn't a tanker to be found delivering gas to any of these stations. I wasn't born last week, and my mother didn't raise any foolish boys. There is no way any of the owners can justify charging $1.00 plus more a gallon when they are pumping out of tanks filled the week before. Spinx was the worst of the bunch......he was the first to pull down the prices on the marquis and start the pillaging. Once he did it, the rest followed......
Sadly enough, all this hoopla about prosecuting for price gouging is only lip service. It's good ol' boy politics here in SC, and most of the politicians are in somebody's hip pocket...
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Old 09-08-2005, 07:49 AM
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The thing that grinds my butt is that the prices go UP in a New York heartbeat to the tune of .50 cents per clip per day but only come DOWN in pennies per week. WTF?????
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Old 09-08-2005, 01:50 PM
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Default Re: SC Attorney General Opens Gas Price Gouging Investigation

Yea I really believe that they are going to do something. It is the old supply/demand theory and the policticians are just making waves to satisfy voters. I betcha they do not do a thing.

Start at the top( ) if you want to get to the high oil prices. If they were not already too high this storm would not have made them seem as bad. I am afraid we are forever stuck with $2 gal gas, somebody has got to pay for Cheney's big bonus before he ran for office
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