Feinstein urges FTC probe of CA’s high gas prices

Something’s fishy about the California’s recent spike in gas prices, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said today.

Feinstein, D-Calif., sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz urging that the FTC launch an investigation of the sudden rise in prices at the pump.

“The recent price spike began on August 6th, when a refinery fire at Chevron’s Richmond Refinery reduced refining capacity at the state’s third largest refinery,” she wrote. “However, this dangerous incident has not resulted in a reduction of gasoline supply that would explain the recent rapid price increase.”

Feinstein noted gas prices have risen 30 cents per gallon since then, reaching $4.21. “As a result, California has the highest gas prices in the continental United States. The increase is more than double the increase in the national average over the same period.”

“It is important that the Commission use its statutory authority aggressively to pursue and remedy any market schemes or other market distorting activities that have led to either the August spike in California gas prices or the longer term trend of higher gas prices in California,” Feinstein wrote.

Read the entire letter, after the jump…
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Congressman flies GOP flag on energy in Bay Area

One day after President Obama was touting his energy record at Silicon Valley campaign stops – stronger fuel economy standards, increased clean energy production, foreign-oil imports at a 15-year low – a Central Valley congressman was in the Bay Area to say there’s a better approach.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, is a regional captain of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT), a Republican policy effort that mounted a “2012 American Energy and Jobs Tour” today. The theme is the GOP’s work “to reverse Administration policies that are causing unnecessary pain at the pump, on Valley farms and in grocery stores as well as costing our nation jobs,” his office said.

He toured the Valero refinery in Benicia and had an energy roundtable discussion with refining business representatives and community business leaders; later, he made a brief stop at an Oakland truck stop.

On his web page, Denham says that even as the nation explores “newer, cleaner energy sources, we must continue to utilize the rich resources within our own borders and on the Outer Continental Shelf, such as oil, coal, liquid, natural gas, and oil shale. One of the most promising outlets for new energy sources is nuclear energy, one of the cleanest forms of energy on the planet.”

For his full remarks as prepared for the Benicia event, read after the jump…
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Emeryville’s Amyris gets $25m recovery grant

Emeryville-based Amyris Biotechnologies Inc. will get a $25 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for a pilot plant producing renewable fuel – a diesel substitute – by fermenting sweet sorghum.

The Energy Department doled out $564 million yesterday to 19 such bio-refinery projects nationwide; Amyris was the only Bay Area recipient. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hope the projects will help lay a foundation for full commercial-scale development of a U.S. biomass industry, reducing the nation’s foreign-oil dependence while creating jobs.

Amyris’ plant will also be able to co-produce lubricants, polymers and other petro-chemical susbstitutes. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said the plant “would create approximately 75 new jobs in the area and propel Amyris’ cutting-edge renewable fuel technology.

“My district employs the brightest talent to harness the potential of transformational technologies to tackle our energy and global climate challenges. This work spurs economic development throughout the nation and provides direct benefits for the economy and workers throughout the East Bay,” Lee said.