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Santa Monica, CA -- California drivers were paying more than $3.36 a gallon for regular gasoline Monday, up four cents from Friday and nearly 50 cents more than the rest of the country, even as crude oil prices have dropped dramatically to $7 below last month's $75.35 peak.

Because oil companies blamed the cost of crude oil for gasoline's rise from $2.25 a gallon at the start of the year and gasoline prices spiked immediately with every upward twitch in the crude oil price, there is no excuse for California's prices, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Even the California Energy Commission was at a loss last week to explain the continuing spike as oil prices began to fall, vaguely citing a possible gasoline supply shortage.

"If crude costs and demand are dropping, gasoline prices should be too, but for the fact that oil companies are charging as much as possibly simply because they can," said Judy Dugan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "Oil companies owe the public an explanation."

Demand, usually up about 4% per year, is flat this year over the same period last year. It is up to elected officials to use their bully pulpits and every legal tool to see that refineries drop their prices as quickly as they rose, said FTCR.

"Rising crude oil prices accounted for only a small fraction of the $1.11 rise at the pump since the first of the year," said Dugan. "The profit trough is full and Big Oil has done substantial damage to consumers. Now even the phony excuse of crude oil prices has run out."

The inability of state energy overseers to explain why gasoline inventories were so low in the face of falling demand is more reason for regulation of the supply of gasoline in California, said FTCR.

Read more about refiners' previous manipulations of supply:
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/co/?postId=4441
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/pr/?postId=2091
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/pr/?postId=6144

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