Oil Companies Undermining Renewable-Fuel Efforts?

FTC launches probe into retailer mandates

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it will examine allegations that oil companies may be undermining efforts to distribute renewable fuels, according to a Bloomberg report.

The FTC will “evaluate” concerns that oil companies are blocking the distribution of renewable fuels by requiring retailers to carry premium gasoline, commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a letter released Friday by two U.S. lawmakers who had called for an inquiry.

Sens. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, earlier this month asked the Justice Department and the FTC to investigate whether oil companies are violating federal antitrust law by blocking the introduction of higher ethanol blends of gasoline, Bloomberg reported.

“We have heard allegations that the oil industry is mandating retailers to carry and sell premium gasoline, thereby blocking the use of the current retail infrastructure to sell renewable fuel,” the senators said in an Aug. 2 letter calling for the FTC to investigate.

Ramirez said her agency would “make every effort to identify, prevent and prosecute practices in petroleum and other markets that violate any statute or rule that the agency enforces,” according to the Aug. 19 letter released by the senators.

“The allegations are a distraction from the fact that the renewable fuels standard is broken,” Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, the Washington-based group that represents oil and gas producers, told Bloomberg in an email.