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Task force to address high gas prices seems like good idea

Most consumers are still upset with retail gas prices, and with good reason. The price is about 50 cents higher per gallon than last year at this time. Since summer is the peak driving season for Americans as millions "hit the road" for vacations, it seems particularly galling that prices have peaked and stayed at a relatively high level.

But the economic laws of supply and demand come into play here. There is simply plenty of demand for gas in spring and summer, while the OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) cartel has effectively limited production to ensure a good price for its commodity.

Fortunately, there has been a slight downward trend in recent weeks. Nationwide, AAA reports that gas prices have fallen more than 5 cents per gallon in the last month.

Still, many people think consumers are getting ripped off. State Attorney General Darrell McGraw recently sent some of his staff to meet with Federal Trade Commission officials to propose the government investigate allegations of price manipulation by gas companies.

McGraw wants to form a task force of attorney generals from all 50 states, the Justice Department's antitrust division and four other federal organizations to address the issue.

We think the idea of a task force is a good one that needs to be implemented. Sometimes consumers need to be protected from methods businesses employ to maximize profits. We must remain vigilant to make sure the American consumer is getting a "fair shake" and a little government oversight is one way to accomplish that.

We hope our officials have learned a valuable lesson from the volatile price swings in the price of gasoline this year and begin to establish a policy of becoming less dependent on foreign sources for our energy needs.

Today's editorial is a reflection of the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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