Little Md. Can Do to Fight Gas Prices: AG

Maryland's attorney general is inquiring why gas prices were jacked up last week, but there's little he can do to bring them down.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) wants passage of legislation that would end $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies in the U.S. He and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler are looking for ways to protect Maryland consumers from high gas prices.

Prices were jacked up 25 cents per gallon at some stations last week. They had rolled back a dime at some stations in Maryland Monday, but few Maryland motorists notice any relief at the pump.

As the owner of an SUV filled her tank with diesel Monday, she exclaimed, "$99! That's even high for me."

The gas prices in Maryland are so high that filling up is no longer an option for some. Sam Lebow stopped filling his tank at eight gallons Monday.

"I'm actually going up to New Jersey tomorrow so I'm going to fill my tank up there because gas is cheaper," he said.

Many motorists feel they are being taken for a ride but have no choice.

"I have to pump premium,” Sheila Harper said. “I have no choice in that. But I'm used to paying $4.17 so when I saw it was $4.59 here, I cringed a little bit, but I have no choice. I have to have it. I have to pay the price."

Last week, a distributor told retailers to raise gas prices 25 cents overnight because of a possible disruption in supplies due to flooding along the Mississippi River. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler wrote a letter asking for a justification for the price increase but said there’s little more he can do.

"The gas stations are getting the prices from the distributors,” Gansler said. “The question is, Is it the distributor or is it the oil company? We're looking into where that is. The problem in Maryland, which they don't have in Virginia or the District of Columbia, is that we don't have a price-gouging statute."

Empire Petroleum Holding, LLC, said that it is cooperating with the attorney general and that distributors like Empire work on set margins, which are not positively affected by rising oil prices, saying in fact, "... due to the higher price of gasoline our business year to date has suffered a 7 percent decrease in volume. Empire would like nothing more than for gasoline prices to immediately decline and become more affordable for the consumer.”

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