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ExxonMobil accused of gauging on gasoline prices

The opposition Democrats cited accusations from some gas station owners

WASHINGTON – Democrats in the US Senate called for an investigation into allegations that oil giant ExxonMobil has artificially pushed up the price of gasoline in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The opposition Democrats cited accusations from some gas station owners that they had been ordered by the company to raise prices at the pump.

«These owners add a unique and compelling voice to the debate, given that their own businesses depend on access to supply from this company,» said a statement from Democratic senators, including former presidential candidate John Kerry.

The allegations deserved «utmost scrutiny» and should be taken up by the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, the statement said.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) for the MidAtlantic said on September 9 that «disgruntled» gasoline station owners find themselves in a dilemma because of alleged pressure from ExxonMobil.

«By raising their prices, they risk losing their loyal customer base, which has taken them years to build. By raising their voices against ExxonMobil’s practises, they risk losing their contracts.»

Eight Democratic governors have demanded that Congress and President George W. Bush launch an investigation into possible price gouging. Some economists have questioned why gasoline prices have increased faster than the world price of crude oil.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry group, has rejected the charges and says gasoline prices merely reflect market forces and limited refining capacity in the United States in the wake of two big hurricanes.