The PJ Tatler

Dem Senator to Holder: Crack Down on Oil Speculators

A Democratic senator asked Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday to employ a task force established nearly a year ago to probe and punish speculation in the oil market that drives up prices.

Holder created the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force Working Group last April to focus specifically on energy-market violations, but the group has been mum since then about its investigations, if any, or outcomes.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal told Holder that, given climbing gas prices, “it is vital that the government make use of every resource available to protect Americans from price-gouging.”

“While many factors contribute to the price of a gallon of gasoline, there is a growing consensus among energy analysts, independent observers, and businesses that operate in the oil futures market that excessive speculation is contributing significantly to these spikes in oil prices. I am very troubled by this prospect,” Blumenthal wrote. “We must make every effort to ensure that Americans pay fair prices for gasoline and heating oil, and that the markets for these commodities operate without manipulation or fraud.”

The senator urged the attorney general to make “vigorous and judicious use” of the task force and implement “more aggressive, muscular investigation and prosecutorial action to crack down on possible widespread wrongdoing that distorts the markets and drives prices higher.”

Blumenthal had called on the task force a month after its formation to start issuing subpoenas, but no investigations were announced.

In the wake of Republicans accusing the administration of hampering domestic oil exploration, Democrats have sought to turn the blame for high gas prices on Wall Street speculators.

Earlier this month, 23 senators and 45 members of the House sent a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission demanding that it take “immediate action to impose strong and meaningful position limits” in line with a provision in 2010’s Wall Street reform law.

“It is one of your primary duties – indeed, perhaps your most important – to ensure that the prices Americans pay for gasoline and heating oil are fair, and that the markets … operate free from fraud, abuse, and manipulation,” the lawmakers said.