Senate to hold hearing on surge in gas prices

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will soon convene a hearing on soaring gasoline prices that he contends have “no reasonable explanation.”

Average nationwide gasoline prices have risen by nearly a half-dollar per gallon since the beginning of the year.

“I think you ask the question, ‘what is going on to make the prices go up so dramatically now?’ The custom has always been — one we didn’t enjoy in America but it has been sort of a tradition — [that] prices go up in the spring. We are still in the winter,” Wyden said Friday.

He spoke during a taping of the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers” that will be broadcast Sunday.

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“There is no reasonable explanation for this right now. The Iranians are not rattling around this week in the Straits of Hormuz, we have not see any kind of unusual developments, that is why I want to look at a whole host of issues, and one that hasn’t been on the table at all has been the question of refineries,” Wyden said.

The Strait of Hormuz is a vital Middle East shipping lane for crude oil that Iran has threatened to block in the past.

Pump prices have been rising at a historic clip, according to AAA.

“The national average price of gasoline has increased 49 cents per gallon since the beginning of the year, which is the highest price increase through the end of February on record,” the travel services organization said in a report Thursday.

Average prices began 2013 at $3.29 per gallon and were $3.78 on Thursday, according to AAA.

“Gas prices increased at a dramatically faster pace than expected in February,” said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement. “Motorists unfortunately are paying more for gasoline than ever at this time of year, and it is primarily because of a decline in refinery production and higher wholesale futures prices.”