Bush Orders Probe Into Gas Price Cheating Apr 25, 10:00 AM EDT By NEDRA PICKLER - Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush has decided to temporarily halt deposits to the nation's strategic petroleum reserve to make more oil available for consumer needs and relieve pressure on pump prices, a senior administration official said Tuesday Bush, under pressure to do something about gasoline prices that are expected to stay high throughout the summer, was to announce the decision in a speech. It was part of a flurry of actions designed to demonstrate that the administration was trying to deal with rising prices. During the last few days, Bush asked his Energy and Justice departments to open inquiries into whether the price of gasoline has been illegally manipulated, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Bush planned to announce the action Tuesday during a speech in Washington. The government also asked states on Tuesday to guard against unfair pricing. It's unclear what impact, if any, Bush's investigation would have on prices that are near or at $3 a gallon or more. Asked if Bush had any reason to suspect market manipulation, McClellan responded, "Well, gas prices are high right now, and that's why you want to make sure there's not." Republicans who control Congress have become concerned that the high cost of filling up could become a problem for them in the November elections. Polls suggest that voters favor Democrats over Republicans on the issue, and Bush gets low marks for handling gasoline prices. The administration sent letters Tuesday to state attorneys general urging them to vigorously enforce state law "against any anticompetitive, anticonsumer conduct in the petroleum industry." "Consumers around the nation have expressed concerns about what they have perceived as anticompetitive or otherwise unfair conduct by the world's major oil companies," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. Their letter said federal agencies had substantially increased efforts to monitor, detect and prevent any violations of the law. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., urged Bush in a letter Monday to order a federal investigation into any gasoline price gouging or market speculation. "There is no silver bullet," Frist said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," but "we need to make sure that any efforts at price-gouging be addressed and addressed aggressively." Meanwhile, Frist said, consumers should take steps to conserve gasoline - drive at slower speeds, tune up car engines for maximum efficiency and carpool. McClellan said Bush had already ordered investigations into market pricing. "We share a commitment with congressional leaders to make sure that we're acting to ensure that there is no price gouging," McClellan said. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada dispatched his own letter, calling for a multi-pronged approach to restrain gas prices. Among the steps were swift enactment of anti-price gouging legislation, an appeal to oil companies to refrain from further price increases, use of more alternative fuels and increased attention to existing fuel-saving laws and regulations. Bush also planned to announce that his attorney general and Federal Trade Commission will send a letter to all 50 state attorneys general, who have primary authority over price gouging, to remind them to stay on top of the issue and offer federal help to do so. And he planned to call on energy companies to reinvest their profits into expanding refining capacity, developing new technologies and researching alternative energy sources, McClellan said. "I think you'll hear the president say very clearly that he will not tolerate price gouging," McClellan said. Bush has said consistently that gas prices are high because global demand is rising faster than global supply and that the problem cannot be solved overnight. McClellan said Bush planned to talk about how experts predict the price will increase this summer and how the switch to a summer fuel mix is contributing to the problem. Bush's actions are part of a four-part plan to address gas prices in the short- and long-term, McClellan said. The steps are: -Making sure consumers and taxpayers are treated fairly. -Promoting greater fuel efficiency. -Boosting gasoline supply at home. -Aggressive long-term investment in alternative fuels. Gonzales and Majoras told state attorneys general Tuesday that their agencies are paying heightened attention to potentially illegal price increases. "Given the importance of energy to Americans' everyday lives and to the American economy, we have substantially increased our efforts at the federal level to monitor, detect, pursue and prevent any violations of the law in this industry," they said in letters to each state attorney general. Separately, Congress already has directed the FTC to investigate whether businesses used Hurricane Katrina to manipulate gasoline supply and prices. The commission is working to meet a May 19 deadline for its report to Congress.