Sanders: Burlington, Vt., Gas Prices Exceed FTC Projections

Senator says data shows dime above high, 43 cents above low

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is claiming that gasoline prices in Burlington, Vt., in June were as much as a dime greater than a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) computer model projected they should be, according to commission data cited by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The June price spike in Burlington exceeded what a computer model used by government economists said was the absolute highest price stations should be charging, he claimed in a statement.

Although he said prices dipped by several cents after he made public his call for a federal investigation into unusually high gasoline prices (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage), the trade commission data details a month-long trend of unusually high prices in Burlington, he claimed.

The FTC turned over the data to Sanders after he called for a probe by the FTC and the Oil & Gas Price Fraud Working Group at the U.S. Department of Justice.

As of the first weekend in June, Burlington prices averaged $3.84 a gallon, about two cents more than the computer model's predicted high and 34 cents above the predicted low, according to the FTC data. By June 30, the average price in Burlington was $3.68 a gallon, a dime more than the predicted high of $3.58 and 44 cents above the predicted low.

Burlington is one of 360 metropolitan areas around the nation where the FTC's Bureau of Economics tracks gasoline prices and compares them to a projection of what high and low prices should be. The monitoring project tracks wholesale and retail prices of gasoline "to identify possible anticompetitive activities and determine whether a law enforcement investigation would be warranted," according to the commission. The formula used by the monitoring project considers in supply and demand, geography and other factors.

Sanders pointed to evidence that in recent days Burlington gasoline prices were 15 cents to 29 cents greater than prices charged by gas stations only about 35 miles away in other Vermont towns.

"Prices here in the Burlington area and other parts of Vermont are much higher than they should be," Sanders said. "So far, no one has given me a particularly good explanation." One factor may be that just four companies own 58% of the stations in the Burlington market.

"People who own service stations have a right to make a profit," Sanders said. "They don't have a right to rip people off," he added.