By Keith Laing - 08/28/12 06:13 PM EDT
Feinstein attributed the spike in California prices to a fire at a Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif. She said the fire "reduced refining capacity at the state’s third largest refinery."
But Feinstein said in her letter to Leibowitz the refinery fire was not an excuse for gouging drivers in California at gas stations.
"This dangerous incident has not resulted in a reduction of gasoline supply that would explain the recent rapid price increase," she wrote. "The California Energy Commission’s statistics show that just before the Chevron fire, the state's refineries were producing about 6 million barrels of gasoline per week. The previous month, they were churning out 7 million barrels per week."
Feinstein said the FTC should also investigate why California's gas prices are generally higher than most other states.
"Gasoline sales in California have fallen from 8.5 million gallons per day in 2006 to 4.9 million gallons per day this year, as drivers switch to more-fuel-efficient cars and elect to utilize public transit," she said. "Despite this drop in demand, and a clear excess in capacity, Californians have continued to endure unusually high gasoline prices when compared to their neighbors to which fuel refined in California is being exported."
Feinstein separately praised the Obama administration for announcing new gas mileage standards that will require cars to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The change would mean "Americans will save $1.7 trillion at the pump and reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels, or 234 billion gallons of gasoline,” she said.