In the almost one year that I've been a resident of the lovely state of Wisconsin, I've grown a healthy respect and admiration for Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. Lautenschlager has demonstrated little patience for the political malfeasance of the Republican party and has often been a vocal critic of the same's attempts at conservative social engineering, both stances I applaud.
In a press release today, Lautenschlager demonstrates her Democratic principals once again in launching an investigation into potential price gouging by big oil companies.
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is moving forward with her investigation into possible market manipulation by the major oil companies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Lautenschlager's office today issued civil investigative demands (CIDs) to 13 oil companies today requesting information related to the availability and sale of fuel in the weeks immediately prior to and after Hurricane Katrina.
"Something doesn't smell right when gasoline prices rise 20-40% while the price of oil is relatively stable," Lautenschlager said. "We need to find out who was profiting and by how much and why," she added.
I think it's about time that the oil companies came under more intense scrutiny, especially given the essential role that the petroleum industry plays in our economy. Plus, this is a group with a shady track record of questionable, if not illegal, activities. As I've noted in a previous post, the oil companies have a documented history of controlling supply to bolster their profit margins at the expense of American consumers.
Also, most anyone that drives (of which I do quite a bit) can add plenty of anecdotal evidence to the notion that when oil prices climb, gas prices climb right alongside. But when oil prices fall, gasoline takes a very slow, meandering path back down, if it decreases at all. In light of the gluttonous consumption of oil by the United States, the oil companies turn outsize profits selling on the margins between oil and gasoline costs.
I agree with Lautenschlager in that I don't believe so much that it is the owners of individual filling stations that are to blame. Similar to the weeks following 9/11/01, government officials have issued stern warning about the consequences to the business licenses of owner-operators caught price gouging. Thus, the real motivation to gouge consumers lies with the international suppliers that can afford to risk government sanctions and legal penalties for those aforementioned rich profits. Hopefully, the investigation by the Wisconsin Attorney General will, if nothing else, make Big Oil realize that they are being watched and their activities are being monitored.
What A.G. Lautenschlager is doing is a fine example of an elected government official acting as a true advocate for the people by whom she was elected and I think that is deserving of recognition. It is sadly lacking in these Republican-dominated days. Lautenschlager is bringing the power of public scrutiny to bear on an industry that, quite frankly, has gotten away with murder over the past 30 years. She is using her authority to demand answers, something that common folk like myself have no power to do effectively. That, I believe, is one of the primary purposes of government; not to give tax breaks and preferential treatment to this same industry!
Thanks, to A.G. Lautenschlager, for a job well done!