California agency says market manipulation could be factor for high gas prices

At the end of April, the difference between California's gas and the national average jumped to a dollar and 10 cents, the "highest increase ever seen," according to the California Energy Commission.

That government agency now says one of the contributing factors could be market manipulation by some retailers, including Chevron, Shell, Exxon, Mobil and 76.

"Something is off. There's no reason why we should be a $1.10 higher than the national average," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "I get why we're a little higher, but not a dollar plus higher, and we're going to pursue this with vigor."

"According to our industry sources, the West Coast gasoline business is doing very well profit wise, so they do tend to bring in more profit than other regions of the country," said Marie Montgomery with the Autoclub of Southern California.

The high price of crude oil and the explosion at Exxon Mobil's refinery in Torrance back in 2015 have impacted gas prices, as well as refinery maintenance, but the Torrance refinery is back to normal operations. If market manipulation is taking place, some retailers would be charging higher prices for the same product.

The commission's report suggests consumers have gotten less price-sensitive. The Autoclub of Southern California urges motorists to do their research when it comes to buying gas as there's cheaper unbranded retailers, Hypermart locations and Arco.

"It's very important for consumers to shop around. Use the free AAA app. It's going to tell you where the cheapest gas is closest to you," Montgomery said. "When you are shopping around, just keep in mind that the cheapest may not always be the best. Use top-tier gasoline if at all possible."

Rachel Espinoza says the high price of gas has impacted her spending and saving.

"You have to cut back on things you were planning to do because gas, depending on what kind of car, you could fill up $100 a week," said Espinoza.

The California Energy Commission will spend the next five months looking at all these factors, including market manipulation.
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