Was the latest gas-price hike an oil company scam?

When gasoline prices on the West Coast skyrocketed in May and October, we were told it was because of  refinery shutdowns that cut into the supply. But a new report suggests that the refineries continued to operate and the supplies were not interrupted.

McClatchy Newspapers’ Kevin G. Hall has the story, which you can read in full by clicking here. Here is some of what Hall has reported from information produced by Oregon-based McCullough Research:

“Specifically, the report alleges that in May, at a time when Royal Dutch Shell’s Martinez, Calif., plant was reported to be down for maintenance for two weeks, it appears to have been making gasoline for at least half that time. That conclusion is reached from state environmental documents showing nitrogen oxide emissions had returned to normal at the refinery a full week before it was reported to have come back on line.

“Similarly, Chevron’s Richmond, Calif., refinery was reported down for maintenance for two weeks in May, but emissions data suggests the refinery never ceased operation.

“The research also concludes that gasoline inventories actually were building in May during a time in which West Coast motorists paid at least 50 cents more per gallon than the national average. This inventory building, evident in data from the California Energy Commission, happened even as four refiners were supposedly down for some portion of May.”