Michigan lawmaker questions gas production, price spikes

(WOOD Photo)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan lawmaker would like to look into why gas prices spike in the Great Lakes state every time there is a production problem.

Even though crude oil has been trading low around $43 this week, gas prices rose to around $3 per gallon in Michigan — more than 30 cents higher than the national average, according to GasBuddy.com.

GasBuddy experts say the higher prices at the pump are the result of a production problem because the BP Whiting Refinery in northwestern Indiana shut down unexpectedly over the weekend. That refinery in the seventh largest in the nation and the largest in the Midwest, so its affecting supply in the region.

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, is the vice chair of the Energy and Technology Committee. He says that if supply is so fragile that a breakdown at only one refinery can cause prices to spike so dramatically, there needs to be an investigation.

“It’s clear that there’s a constraint in the manufacturing process,” Proos said. “My question isn’t necessarily the supply and demand issues — I did OK in that class, by the way. In my estimation, though, we have to be looking at whether or not it’s being handled fairly and then ask the next question, which is how is it that we don’t have the refining capacity to be prepared for mechanical breakdowns.”

He wants Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to work with his counterparts in other Midwest states to get to the bottom of higher prices.

Proos admitted that gasoline production is largely an unregulated, market-driven concern. Still, he said, knowing that someone is looking over its shoulder could make the industry more accountable.

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