Sen. Barbara Boxer speaks at the Adult Recreation Center in Glendale, Oct. 8, 2012.

Sen. Barbara Boxer speaks at the Adult Recreation Center in Glendale, Oct. 8, 2012. (Roger Wilson/Staff photographer / October 8, 2012)

Speaking to a group of seniors at the Adult Recreation Center about healthcare reform, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Monday also took the opportunity to join a growing chorus of elected officials calling for an investigation into what caused the record-breaking surge in fuel prices across the state.

Her colleague in the U.S. Senate, Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging a probe into whether something other than supply and demand played a role into the price hikes.

With some gas stations in the area advertising one gallon of regular unleaded at more than $5, Boxer on Monday joined the fray, calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

“First of all, we need to know what happened here,” Boxer said.

The Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group was formed last year after President Obama asked the U.S. attorney general to work with federal and state agencies to monitor oil and gas markets for potential criminal manipulation.

“It’s going to take an investigation,” Boxer said. “This organization has the tools, it needs to go after this.”

She also pointed to new rules by the Obama administration that require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025 as a way to back off a dependency on oil.

Officials have blamed recent pipeline and refinery woes, as well as the switch over to the so-called “winter blend” of fuels that comply with state air quality regulations.

“There’s one question we really need to ask, ‘How do we get out of this mess?’ There is a way out of it and that is to make sure we get great fuel economy,” she said, adding that purchasing hybrid and electric vehicles is essential. “This is the true answer because we will be plagued by these problems continually and we will have to have investigation after investigation."

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

RELATED:

Feinstein wants federal probe of record California gas prices

Analysts: California gas-price surge could end today

-- Mark Kellam, Times Community News

Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam