It isn’t easy to tell someone no during the holiday season, but that is exactly what Governor Bill Walker has done to Sen. Bill Wielechowski. Walker told Wielechowski there would be no new investigation into alleged gasoline price fixing in Alaska.
On September 9th Wielechowski sent the Governor and Attorney General Craig Richards a letter asking for a new look into prices at the pump saying:
“One of the benefits of low oil prices should be a decrease in prices for gasoline and heating fuel. That’s the case around the country. With the closing of the Flint Hills refinery, we’ve been seeing a narrowing of the players in the refinery industry in Alaska allowing for less and less competition. Alaskans deserve to know if the near-monopoly in the refining business in Alaska is the cause for their pain at the pump.”
The last substantial investigation into the issue came in 2008 with a report from the State Attorney General’s office finding:
“No evidence of collusion or other illegal antitrust behavior among Alaska’s refiners, wholesale marketers or retailers to fix output or prices. Our investigation indicates that the spread between Alaska gasoline prices and prices in the Lower-48 markets that began to widen during July 2008 is likely the result of market-related conditions in Alaska, combined with the unprecedented price volatility and uncertainty that occurred in crude oil markets during the year.”.
In a letter to Wielechowski dated December 22nd, the Governor said there would be no new look into those findings saying the current prices don’t warrant such attention:
“Gasoline prices in southcentral Alaska have fallen dramatically since September. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, on December 14, 2015, the average U.S. price for a gallon of gasoline on the West Coast (minus California) was $2.34. The average price for gasoline in Anchorage is about $2.23 today – about $0.10 lower than the West Coast Average. The “lag” in price reduction in Alaska also occurred in 2008, and is not unusual for this market.”
The criticism of gas prices in Alaska is an almost annual refrain and regular campaign rhetoric from Democrats such as Wielechowski, Rep. Chris Tuck, Rep. Scott Kawasaki, and current Anchorage Assemblyman Pete Pedersen over the last 15 years.
According to GasBuddy.com as of January 4th the average price for regular gas in Alaska is $2.39 a gallon compared to $2.33 in Anchorage, and $1.99 nationally.