LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Oil companies exported "unprecedented" amounts of gasoline from the West Coast to foreign nations just prior to a huge spike in the price of gasoline in California, a consumer advocacy group said Thursday.
Citing information from federal sources, Jamie Court with Consumer Watchdog told reporters the exports came just one month before California experienced a "supply crisis" that raised gasoline prices in California over a dollar above the national average.
"In December, before we had a series of refinery outages in February, we had the largest exports ever since they started recording exports in gasoline prices," Court alleged.
During that month, according to Court, West Coast refiners exported 2.7 million barrels, or 113 million gallons of gasoline. The exports also constituted the most exports in a quarter ever, Court said.
In the fourth quarter of 2014, oil companies exported an amount that represents almost a third of California's current gasoline supply, according to Court, who said Consumer Watchdog would provide evidence to back up the claims to state Senate investigators and regulators.
It was unclear whether that evidence would be released to the public.
Those exports, according to Court, helped fuel a gas shortage that was exacerbated when refineries went off-line for maintenance. Prices soared immediately to $1.30 above the national average.
But Tupper Hull, Vice President of the Western States Petroleum Association, told KNX 1070's Jon Baird the oil is not manipulating prices and claims Consumer Watchdog has a long history of confusing people by misusing data.
"We had a couple of refineries go down, we had a very tightly balanced market that operates under some of the most stringent environmental regulations and the highest taxes," Hull said.
According to a Consumer Watchdog report released in April, Californians paid $550 million more for gasoline than the rest of the country in February, when prices soared to among the highest in the nation.
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