Tampa, Fla. The recent spike in gasoline prices isn't justified and is getting "uncomfortably close" to gouging, a AAA spokesman said Thursday.
The price of a gallon of regular gasoline has risen about 13 cents in less than two weeks to a national average of $1.633 -- the highest since June 2001, according to the automobile association.
The industry has blamed tensions in the Middle East and a strike in Venezuela that has crippled that nation's petroleum industry. Venezuela is one of the largest exporters of crude oil to the United States.
AAA spokesman Geoff Sundstrom said nothing has occurred in the market to warrant the increase, and suggested oil companies are looking ahead to what could happen to crude oil prices if the United States invaded Iraq.
The organization urged the industry to show restraint and said it "stands ready to support government action against companies that unfairly profit from any future national emergency."
John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the U.S. oil industry, said any suggestion of price gouging was "inappropriate."
He said retail gas prices were simply tracking the rising cost of crude oil. The wholesale price of a barrel of light sweet crude was $36.10 Thursday, up from $33.67 Jan. 31.
"This is a market that moves," he said.
AAA is the nation's largest auto club with more than 44 million members.
|Gasoline prices for regular unleaded in Lawrence averaged $1.61 per gallon on Thursday, according to a survey by AAA. A year ago, the price was $1.06.The state's average for regular unleaded gasoline on Thursday was $1.59 per gallon, and a year ago it was $1.08.|