The oil industry is deliberately operating refineries at a reduced rate to create a shortage of unleaded gasoline, according to a congressional study issued yesterday by Rep. Albert E. Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.)
In a related development the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union made similar charges against the oil companies, citing four examples of refineries operating under capacity for the production of unleaded gasoline.
Gore said the study conducted by the overnsight of the House Commerce Committee, "presents distrubing evidence regarding the current tenuous nature of gasoline supplies while belying any suggestion that the present situation is attributable to gasoline price controls, as claimed by industry."
Gore added that "the current low level of gasoline supplies relates to the oil industry's having dramatically reduced gasoline inventories by upwards of two billion gallons (k/ million barrels) during the first six months of this year by operating their refineries at a reduced rate."
The lawmaker called upon the Department of Energy to shelve its plans to seek decontrol of gasoline prices at the pump, citing "the recent OPEC price increase that will increase gasoline prices by an estimated 3-5 cents per gallon, and the natioin's faltering efforts to control inflation."
The Moss study showed that 1978 refinery utilization was down significantly from 1977.
The letter from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Worker's International Union to Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) alleged that Texaco, Union Oil, Mobil and Shell were deliberately underproducing unleaded gasoline in an effort to create a supply/demand relationship that would increase gas prices.
At a hearing earlier this week, H.J. Mcclain, a regional director of the union-which is entering into labor negotiations at this time with industry-said "the men and women of OCAW do not believe there is a shortage of unleaded gasoline."
Mcclain said, "whatever supply problems may exist, we believe, have been purposely created for one reason-to manipulate oil price increases and to frighten the American people so that price controls will be lifted."
The oil companies have contended, however, that there is no deliberate shorting of supplies, and blame under-utilization, in many cases, to refinery problems.
The oil companies claim the demand for high octane unleaded gasoline has gone far beyong industry estimates, and contend that a hodgepodge of government regulations have prevented the industry from producting enough unleaded gasoline.