San­ders Calls for Gas Price Probe, Emer­gency Ac­tion by Oil Mar­ket Reg­u­la­tors

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Wash­ing­ton, DC

With gaso­line prices ris­ing rapidly, Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) to­day pro­posed an amend­ment to make U.S. fed­eral reg­u­la­tors fol­low the lead of Eu­ro­peans and in­ves­ti­gate oil and fuel price ma­nip­u­la­tion.

San­ders also pro­posed a 30-day dead­line for the Com­mod­ity Fu­tures Trad­ing Com­mis­sion to use its emer­gency pow­ers to curb ex­ces­sive spec­u­la­tion in crude oil mar­kets.

“We must do ev­ery­thing that we can to make sure that oil and gaso­line prices are trans­par­ent and free from fraud, ma­nip­u­la­tion, abuse and ex­ces­sive spec­u­la­tion,” said San­ders, a mem­ber of the Se­nate en­ergy com­mit­tee.

Over the past five months, the national aver­age price for a gal­lon of gaso­line has gone up by more than 41 cents. The price hikes come at a time when U.S. oil in­ven­to­ries reached a three-decade high while de­mand for gaso­line is lower than four years ago when prices av­er­aged less than $2.30 a gal­lon.

“The sky­rock­et­ing cost of gaso­line and oil is caus­ing tremen­dous hard­ship to the Amer­i­can con­sumer, small busi­nesses, truck­ers, air­lines and fuel deal­ers. In fact, as we strug­gle to claw our way out of this ter­ri­ble re­ces­sion, high oil and gas prices are enor­mously detri­men­tal to the en­tire eco­nomic re­cov­ery process,” San­ders said.

One San­ders amend­ment to the farm bill would make the com­mis­sion that reg­u­lates com­modi­ties and the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Work­ing Group con­duct a six-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine whether any com­pany or in­di­vid­ual in the United States has ma­nip­u­lated the price of gaso­line, crude oil, heat­ing oil, diesel fuel or jet fuel.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be sim­i­lar to one al­ready un­der­way in Europe, where the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion on May 13 an­nounced that it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that BP, Shell, Sta­toil and oth­ers “may have col­luded in re­port­ing dis­torted prices to a Price Re­port­ing Agency to ma­nip­u­late the pub­lished prices for a num­ber of oil and bio­fuel prod­ucts.”

A sec­ond San­ders amend­ment would give the com­mis­sion 30 days to use all of its au­thor­ity, in­clud­ing its emer­gency pow­ers, to elim­i­nate, pre­vent or di­min­ish ex­ces­sive oil spec­u­la­tion. It also would make the com­mis­sion en­sure that oil and gaso­line prices are based on the fun­da­men­tals of sup­ply and de­mand.

Exxon Mo­bil, Gold­man Sachs, the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, Delta Air­lines, the Pe­tro­leum Mar­keters As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, the Con­sumer Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ica, the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund and a 2012 re­port from the St. Louis Fed­eral Re­serve all have in­di­cated that ex­ces­sive oil spec­u­la­tion sig­nif­i­cantly in­creases oil and gaso­line prices.

The chair­man of the

com­mod­ity com­mis­sion has stated that Wall Street oil spec­u­la­tors now con­trol more than 80 per­cent of the en­ergy fu­tures mar­ket, a fig­ure that has more than dou­bled over the past decade. This ex­ces­sive oil and gaso­line spec­u­la­tion is clearly caus­ing ma­jor mar­ket dis­tur­bances that pre­vent the mar­ket from ac­cu­rately re­flect­ing the forces of sup­ply and de­mand.

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