Last spring, when gas prices were approaching the $4-a-gallon mark,
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was named to take part in a
federal probe into local, national and international causes of the increase.
In December, Schneiderman reported on potential price gouging at the pump at 89 gas stations and the distribution network within New York -- and gouging at a handful of stations in the state after last fall's two tropical storms.
Schneiderman spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said Wednesday that his work with the federal Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group was both "completed" and "ongoing... we will continue to share information with the task force as cases arrive."
In April 2011 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the group would investigate "oil and gas markets for potential wrongdoing ... and developments in commodities markets and examine investor practices, supply and demand factors and the role of speculators and index traders in oil futures markets."
Ten months after its creation, the task force has not issued a public report, while gasoline prices become increasingly political in a presidential election year. Republicans claim rising global prices for crude oil -- which is used to produce gasoline -- are the fault of Holder's boss, President Barack Obama.
The price of oil is now about $107 a barrel, based on the benchmark price of West Texas Intermediate, having steadily risen since August. That price is close to where it peaked in April 2011, when it started to drop, followed by gasoline prices.
Crude oil accounts for 69 percent of the retail price of gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with the rest coming from taxes (12 percent), refining costs (11 percent) and distribution, marketing and retail costs (8 percent).
Gasoline use in the U.S. remains below historic highs as a result of the economic downturn, but demand in China and India remains strong. And trading in oil as a commodity by large investors has risen.
Schneiderman's December report found rising gasoline prices in New York were "primarily driven by changes in the price of crude oil, not actions taken by gasoline retailers." But any deeper examination of forces behind the price of crude oil, and hence, the price of gasoline "were not in our charge or within our jurisdiction," said Schneiderman spokeswoman Givner.
Holder's office could not provide any comment to a reporter who called to asked about the status of the task force.
Schneiderman was named to the group as the representative of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Other members named by Obama include the National Association of Attorneys General, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the departments of Agriculture and Energy.
When rising gasoline prices sparked political debates last spring, Obama and congressional Democrats called for ending billions of dollars in annual tax subsidies to oil companies, which are enjoying record profits.
Republicans want to leave the tax breaks in place and loosen environmental rules to allow for more off-shore drilling and to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil companies.
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