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Klobuchar, Franken question gas prices

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar1 / 2
Al Franken2 / 2

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has asked the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate the steep increase in Minnesota gas prices over the past few weeks.

Gasoline industry officials say regional gas prices have jumped 80 cents over the past month and 30 cents in the past week because of both unexpected and planned shutdowns at gasoline refineries. Klobuchar said temporary closures shouldn't be allowed to raise the price consumers have to pay.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Klobuchar called on the Department of Energy to thoroughly examine the timing of scheduled maintenance operations to prevent future supply shocks that cause gas prices to rise.

"This spike in gas prices is hurting families, businesses and farmers across Minnesota and disrupting commerce," Klobuchar said in the letter. "Scheduled maintenance at refineries should not be allowed to cause such major disruptions in supply."

Klobuchar added that "while refiners must adjust their plants for seasonal gasoline blends and perform necessary upgrades to protect worker safety and repair equipment, scheduled maintenance should not be allowed to contribute to such a major gasoline shortage."

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., also said he was working to find out why prices have spiked so high.

"I'm currently working with the Department of Energy to explore whether there's a way to make sure that we can avoid having multiple temporary refinery closures in the same area of the country -- which is part of the reason why we're seeing the spike in gas prices," said Franken, chairman of the Energy Subcommittee on the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee.

According to, the average price Thursday afternoon for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $3.63 nationally but nearly $4.16 in Minnesota. That's up from $3.46 in Minnesota four weeks ago.

Minnesota prices ranged from $3.69 to $4.29 per gallon Thursday, including from $3.95 to $4.29 in Duluth, the website reported Thursday.