Sanders: Let's Do as Europe and Probe Price-Fixing

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to compel the federal government to follow in Europe's footsteps and probe alleged oil and fuel price manipulation.

A Sanders amendment to the farm bill would make the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to 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.

“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.

"If the Commodity Futures Trading Commission finds that illegal price-fixing has occurred, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission shall report those findings, along with any evidence, to the proper authorities," the amendment states.

He also proposed a 30-day deadline for the CFTC to use its emergency powers to curb excessive speculation in crude oil markets.

The European Commission announced last week 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.”

Sanders is angry because of a 41 cent per gallon average price hike over the past five months even though demand is lower and inventories are high.

“The skyrocketing cost of gasoline and oil is causing tremendous hardship to the American consumer, small businesses, truckers, airlines and fuel dealers," he said. "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."

The amendments come on the heel of Sanders cheering Pope Francis last week for condemning a “cult of money” in the world that he said was oppressing the poor.

“At a time when the gap between rich and everyone else is growing wider, at a time when Wall Street and large financial institutions are exerting extraordinary power over the American and world economy, I applaud the pope for speaking out on these enormously important issues,” Sanders said.