Gas prices have reached record highs and people are reaching their breaking points. The nation's highest average price tops out at $3.45 a gallon in California and the lowest average isn't far behind at $2.95 in New Jersey.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has joined forces with 21 other governors to ask Congress to investigate why oil companies are reaping such huge profits and yet prices remain so high. In fact, gas prices have gone up 33 cents a gallon during the past year.
In Crist's state, gas prices are at $3.10 a gallon, which he said is detrimental to Florida's tourist economy. He said Florida will take a financial hit with Memorial Day coming up, as will many other states.
"Exxon alone made over $9 billion in the first quarter of this year, yet they're charging record prices," Crist, a Republican, told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "It doesn't make sense for the people of our state and our country."
The letter drafted by Crist and the other governors contends that the massive increases are not tied to any geopolitical event. It is his concern that the oil companies are trying to gouge the consumers.
"You see the profits they're making," he said. "You see the prices they're charging. They haven't had the kind of typical problems they've had in the past when they've used those as excuses to raise the price of gas at the pump. You have to reach the conclusion they're gouging people ... We think the United States' Congress can do a great job in a bipartisan way to investigate these oil companies and see why it is they're hurting our consumers so much."
Before Crist became governor, he investigated gas prices in 2005 as Florida's attorney general. As a result, he said he found that there was not a very strong rational as to why gas was so expensive.
"Some of the ridiculous answers we got, Hannah, were that a barge broke down on the Mississippi river and so that slowed down, you know, getting the product to the pump," Crist said. "Or that there were some cold weather out in Washington and Oregon and that slowed down some of their port activity. I mean, some of these excuses just blow your mind. It makes no sense."
The last time gas prices shot up this way, oil companies told the public that they can't control the prices, something Crist said infuriates him. The key, he said, is to diversify the country's energy consumption with things like ethanol.
"It's important to go to other means of fuel so we're not so darn dependent on foreign oil and these gas companies that are taking advantage in my humble opinion, of American consumers," Crist said. "If we go to ethanol, hybrids, help us wean ourselves off this kind of dependence on foreign oil, it makes us a much stronger nation, gives consumers greater choice, gives us that much more freedom."
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