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Consumer Watchdog: Oil Companies Keep CA Gas Prices High By Sending Gas Offshore To Keep Supply Low

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- A California consumer group has accused oil companies of driving up prices in the state by sending millions of gallons of gasoline offshore.

Even though crude oil prices are at about $65 dollars a barrel, gas prices in California are close to $4 a gallon.

Californians pay more than the rest of the country for gasoline.

According to Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica, one reason is the oil companies limit gasoline production by strategically taking refineries off line for maintenance. Their analysts say another way is by exporting it to other countries, which keeps gas supplies in California low and prices high, .

The organization's spokesperson Jamie Court points to data from the federal government which shows west coast gas producers exported 2.7 million gallons of refined gasoline in December.

That was enough gas to power every vehicle in California for three days.

"We have a record export from the oil refiners who are now making a killing because of this tight supply market," said Court.

The Western States Petroleum Association responded to the allegations in a written statement saying:

"Consumer Watchdog is deliberately misusing U.S. Department of Energy information to mislead Californians about gas prices. Nothing can be learned about California markets by looking at data covering 6 states."

"The amount of gasoline exported from the west coast in December 2014 was 2.7 million barrels. During that time, west coast refineries produced more than 48 million barrels of gasoline."

Court insists the numbers add up to high prices at the pump California consumers should not have to pay.

When gas prices soared in February, Consumer Watchdog says Californians paid a half a billion dollars more for gas than the rest of the country.

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