Nonprofits want oil refiners to disclose California profit

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Consumer Watchdog and NextGen Climate called on California legislators Wednesday to require oil companies to disclose how much they make in profits from refining oil in the state.

Consumer Watchdog and NextGen Climate are calling for a change in law to protect consumers from inflated prices at the pump.

According to the American Automobile Association, the average gas price in Los Angeles County is now $3.95 a gallon -- a drop of 35 cents from last month.

But while the average gas price is $3.95 in Los Angeles County, the U.S. average is $2.63 cents -- that's a difference of $1.32.

During the month of July, drivers in California paid $1.2 billion more than the rest of the nation for gas, according to Consumer Watchdog's analysis. That figure is based on the amount paid per gallon in California compared to the national price average.

In a news conference Wednesday, officials with Consumer Watchdog and NextGen Climate said gas prices are a big problem for California motorists and a big profit for the oil companies.

"In the second week of July, $1.61 of every gallon went to the oil refiners' profits and costs -- $1.61 of our $4 a gallon is going right to the oil refineries, usually its 48 cents," Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court said. "The oil refineries are getting rich on our expense."

Court showed a graphic indicating Valero's refining profit this year is nearly 11 times more than it was last year. According to Consumer Watchdog, Chevron, California's largest refinery, is reporting double their average profits.

In a second quarter investor call, Chevron Executive Frank Mount said "tight product supply, primarily on the West Coast, boosted refining and marketing margins and increased earnings by $165 million between quarters."

"This is a market that is not functioning for California consumers and it's functioning for the people who are running the market, and that has got to change," NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer said.

Both Consumer Watchdog and NextGen Climate are hoping to get a measure on the November ballot that would require oil companies in California to fully disclose profits; give the public advance notice of planned maintenance and outages at refineries; maintain minimum gas reserves to prevent a price hike; and increase penalties for any company that illegally conspires to increase gas prices.

Steyer and Court said they have not yet identified any lawmakers who intend to carry the legislation. The ballot measure proposal may be a tough sell to the Legislature since the oil companies have one of the largest and strongest lobbyist groups in the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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businessgas priceseconomySouthern CaliforniaLos Angeles CountyCalifornia
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