FTC, Antitrust Division Send Report to President on Factors Explaining National Average Gasoline Price Increases During Spring and Summer of 2006

For Release

Market factors explain increases in the national average retail price for gasoline during the spring and summer of 2006, according to a report sent to the President today by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

In April 2006, while the FTC was completing its intensive investigation of petroleum industry conduct and gasoline pricing following Hurricane Katrina, President Bush directed DOJ to work with the FTC and the Department of Energy to conduct inquiries into rising gasoline prices. Today’s “Report on Spring/Summer 2006 Nationwide Gasoline Price Increases,” which builds on the investigative work done in connection with the post-Katrina report, describes staff’s factual findings and economic analysis that price increases during the spring and summer of 2006 were attributable to six factors: (1) seasonal effects of the summer driving season; (2) increases in the price of crude oil; (3) increases in the price of ethanol; (4) capacity reductions stemming from refiners’ transition from the fuel additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether to ethanol; (5) refinery outages resulting from hurricane damage, other unexpected problems or external events, and required maintenance; and (6) increased consumer demand for gasoline beyond the seasonal effects of the summer driving season. The determination that the price increases were attributable to these six factors also supports the conclusion that the increases did not stem from violations of the antitrust laws.

While conducting this inquiry into nationwide price increases, Commission staff has continued to monitor retail and wholesale prices of gasoline and diesel fuel at a more localized level to identify unusual price movements and determine whether they might result from anticompetitive conduct. The agency’s economists regularly scrutinize price movements in 20 wholesale regions and approximately 360 retail areas across the country, and FTC attorneys and economists initiate law enforcement investigations in response to suspect pricing episodes as they are identified.

The Commission vote to issue the report was 4-1, with Commissioner Jon Leibowitz dissenting and issuing a separate statement that can be found as a link to this press release on the FTC’s Web site.

Copies of the report are available on the FTC’s Web site. The FTC’s Bureau of
Competition works with the Bureau of Economics to investigate alleged anticompetitive business practices and, when appropriate, recommends that the Commission take law enforcement action. To inform the Bureau about particular business practices, call 202-326-3300, send an e-mail to antitrust@ftc.gov, or write to the Office of Policy and Coordination, Room 394, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. To learn more about the Bureau of Competition, read “Competition Counts” at http://www.ftc.gov/competitioncounts.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180
STAFF CONTACT:
Michael R. Baye, Director,
Bureau of Economics
202-326-2550

John Seesel, Associate
General Counsel for Energy
202-326-2702