Reid Asks For Federal Probe Of Rising Gas Prices

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Sen. Harry Reid is calling for a federal investigation into soaring gasoline prices in Nevada.

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate why gas prices in Nevada are nearly 30 cents above the national average.

"These sharp increases in gasoline prices are suspicious," Reid, D-Nev., wrote. "I need to assure the citizens of Nevada that gasoline markets are operating properly and not being manipulated to maximize the profits of oil companies."

Rayola Dougher of the American Petroleum Institute blamed high crude prices, not industry collusion, for pushing up gas prices by 40 cents a gallon over the last two months.

Nearly 30 state and federal investigations have looked into alleged price gouging by the oil industry over the past several decades, she said.

"None have found any wrongdoing," Dougher told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "This is the force of supply and demand."

Profits nearly doubled in 2003 for the five largest oil companies operating in California and Nevada, including Chevron-Texaco and Exxon Mobil.

"All of them are doing well,' said Kent Gilbreath, an economics professor at Baylor University who studies the oil and gas industry.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano wrote President Bush last week asking for a probe of gas prices by the Justice Department.