If the 20-cent hike in gasoline prices during the past week has got you really mad, you might consider suing Exxon Corp.
But you'll have to stand in line. A class- action suit was filed against the company in U.S. District Court for California on Monday on behalf of Californians who buy gasoline. The suit contends that Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska has increased pump prices by more than 20 cents in that state.The suit claims the price of gasoline and petroleum products rose rapidly and dramatically in that state as a result of the oil spill, injuring Californians who must pay the higher prices. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
The Exxon Valdez spilled 10.1 million gallons of oil after running aground March 24 in Prince William Sound.
Pump prices in Utah also jumped 20 cents last week, peaking at $1.04.9 for regular, $1.07.9 for unleaded and $1.17.9 for premium unleaded.
Angry Utahns are skeptical about the claim that the oil spill caused the price increase, noting that the drastic increase comes just before the tourist season.
Holiday Oil President Jerry Wag-staff is also skeptical.
"In the last month, we've had two of those price surges where (wholesale prices) started bouncing their way up," he said. The refineries are blaming the latest price hike on the oil spill, Wagstaff said. "I don't know how I could ever prove that one way or the other."
Local retailers raised their prices last week only after refineries and wholesalers raised their prices, he said. The price of Holiday's unleaded ranged from $1.02.9 to $1.07.9 on Monday. Wagstaff said the company bought its latest shipment of unleaded from Sinclair for 70 cents. Add to that 29.1 cents a gallon in taxes, and the company is paying 99.1 cents a gallon for unleaded gasoline.
That means Holiday's markup ranges from 3.8 cents to 8.8 cents per gallon. "The state says there is supposed to be a minimum retail mark-up of 6 percent. If we can average 6 percent on an annual basis, we've done pretty good," he said.
Alaska resumed normal oil flow this week, putting out 2.1 million barrels per day. If the price hike really is due to the oil spill, prices should be coming down soon.
"I understand there are a lot of crude tankers out in the bay ready to unload," Wagstaff said. "It will be interesting to see if that lowers our wholesale prices again. It ought to."
Wagstaff said last week's prices jumped faster in a shorter time than any he remembers. "Maybe I don't have a very long memory, but I don't ever remember it going up that quick."
The California Energy Commission said it didn't believe price hikes were related to the spill. Spokeswoman Angela Blanchette said the state has 20 to 25 days' worth of extra oil on hand.
Wagstaff said retailers get hurt as badly as the public by price surges. "All we do is go on what the gas costs us. We try to watch our competition and get ourselves a (profit) margin. At this point, I don't think we have any excessive margins whatsoever."