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Getting Answers: How Would Forcing Oil Companies To Publicly Disclose Profits Help Consumers?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Gas prices continue to skyrocket, and Sacramento and Modesto hit new all-time highs again on Wednesday.

As California gas prices continue to reach those record highs, frustration is growing from drivers.

"It's outrageous," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "This is what we call the golden state gouge"

Court says rising prices are threatening our economy.

"It's a terrible choice to have to choose between food and rent and gasoline," Court said.

UC Berkeley Economist Severin Borenstein has spent years researching California gas prices, and he says there are still a lot of unknowns.

"The real question is where between the refinery and the pump is all the money being made? There's this extra piece, what I called the mystery gasoline surcharge, and that is adding an extra 30 cents a gallon," Borenstein said.

Now, some lawmakers are calling for more transparency in those prices. A new bill in the legislature would require California oil refineries to report the price they pay for crude oil and the finished gasoline they sell.

So how could forcing fuel companies to publicly disclose profits help consumers?

"They don't disclose them in California because if they did, they know they'd be under the scrutiny of the legislature, and the governor and the attorney general, and that's exactly why they need to disclose them," Court said.

There's also a new call to hold public hearings similar to the ones that looked into the 2000 energy crisis that triggered rolling blackouts.

"They actually had the power to subpoena people and they learned a lot," Borenstein said. "And I think that's where we really need to go."

Supporters say public disclosure is one of the best ways to keep gas prices in check.

"Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and boy does this gas industry need disinfecting," Court said.

Borenstein says we may soon see a little relief at the pump since crude oil prices are beginning to fall.

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