Gas prices are speculators' fault, say Murray and Cantwell

By:  MEG COYLE / KING 5 News and Associated Press
SEATTLE -  Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are blaming commodity speculators for pushing up the price of gasoline and are now calling on federal regulators to crack down on speculation.

Gas prices in Seattle have gone up 52 cents a gallon in just two months with no end in sight. Consumer confidence and retail sales have been up, albeit slightly, for several months in a row. But some small business owners worry high fuel prices could derail any gains they have made.

"I am definitely concerned," said Angie Sorensen, owner of Lamb's Ear Shoes in Fremont.

She sells up and coming designer shoes, many from out of the country. Thanks to recent fuel surcharges, they're out of her price range.

"It takes a lot more money and sometimes we have to avoid European-made shoes because it's just too expensive," said Sorensen.

"They are literally kicking American families and small business owners when they're down and it has to stop," Sen. Murray said.

Retailers were just beginning to see the light. But once again, they stand to lose whatever gains they've made.

"We try to adjust our shoe prices a little bit to make up for that," Sorensen said.

In an effort to get more foot traffic, Fremont business owners have created pamphlets touting the neighborhood's eclectic shops. They're also going to hotels, asking the concierge to give the pamphlets to their guests.

Cantwell and Murray want to hold federal regulators to the Wall Street Reform Law by better policing oil markets to reduce artificial speculation on gas prices.

The public affairs office at the commission referred a caller seeking comment to the commission's website, which indicates it has proposed commodity future contract limits that are still in the public comment stage.

The AAA auto club reports the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Washington is $3.92. That's 9 cents higher than the national average and up 4 cents in a week and 23 cents in a month.