The Energy Department has launched an informal investigation into the recent run-up in gas prices. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says the increases struck him as being unusually large, even though gas prices traditionally go up in the days before Labor Day weekend.
The average retail price for regular unleaded shot up 12 cents a gallon during the week after the massive northeast blackout. The national average reached $1.75 a gallon last week.
The power outage briefly shut down seven refineries in the United States and Canada. Industry officials had said the shutdown could cause some price increases, but the impact was expected to be modest.
Abraham told a congressional committee that he can't judge yet whether there's price gouging involved, but he says a department hotline has been flooded with consumer complaints.