WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should release the results of a nine-month investigation into whether oil companies are manipulating gasoline prices, a senior Democratic senator said on Thursday.
The request from Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, comes as election-minded lawmakers trade barbs over who is to blame for rising gasoline prices.
Republicans have pilloried President Barack Obama for policies they say are limiting U.S. oil production, while Democrats blame speculators for exacerbating the problem.
The FTC began looking last June at whether oil refineries were engaged in anti-competitive practices, but has not released any findings of wrongdoing.
Schumer and fellow Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill wrote to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, urging him to finish the probe and release the results.
“As the economy is just starting to turn the corner, it is incumbent upon the Federal Trade Commission to protect the American consumer and conclude and release the results of their investigation in potential price-fixing by oil refiners,” Schumer said in a statement.
Spikes in gasoline prices often spur calls for investigations by the FTC. In a 2006 report, the FTC concluded that companies had not caused prices to run up four years earlier by restricting refining capacity or cutting inventories.
Another report from the FTC last September said crude oil prices were the main contributor to U.S. gasoline prices, downplaying the impact of oil industry consolidation. (Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Vicki Allen and Dale Hudson)