Senators Cantwell and Murray speak up about high gas prices; highlight suffering local businesses

By:  Anne-Marije Rook,Ballard News Tribune
Source: Ballard News Tribune

At a media event in Fremont yesterday, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray demanded that federal regulators crack down on excessive oil market speculation that may be contributing to artificially high gas and diesel prices in Seattle and around the country.

New Roots Organics hosted the event which highlighted local small businesses hurt by the oil spike. These small businesses were represented by Warren Aakervik from Ballard Oil, which supplies fuels for fishing boats; and Carolyn Boyle, owner of New Roots Organics and Doug McClure of Zeek's Pizza. New Roots Organics and Zeek's pizza both deliver their goods and high oil prices hurt their businesses.

The Wall Street Reform bill  approved last year called for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to implement speculative position limits in energy markets within 180 days of enactment. The CFTC is more than three months late on their January 2011 deadline to take action, while consumers continue to pay high prices at the pump, a press release from Cantwell's office states.                

“In last year’s Wall Street Reform law, we gave the financial cops the tools they need to rein in rampant oil speculation and protect consumers. Today, we’re demanding that they use those tools to help relieve the burden of gas prices on families and small businesses in Seattle and across the country,” Cantwell said in a press release.

Cantwell believes that implementing speculative position limits – restrictions on the size of investors’ commodity holdings – would limit price volatility and unpredictability in commodities such as oil.

CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said in a March 25, 2011 letter to Cantwell that oil speculation is at “an all time high,” up 64 percent since June of 2008.

According to analysis compiled by Chilton, excessive oil speculation costs drivers between $8-16 per tank, depending on the kind of car they drive.

“Seattle drivers are paying at the pump for excessive oil speculation, while federal regulators have blown off deadlines and failed to act,” Cantwell said.

Gas prices in Seattle have gone up 52 cents-per-gallon in just the last two months, hurting small business and burdening families and the economic recovery. Diesel prices are a dollar more per gallon over this time last year, hitting truckers, farmers and transit services particularly hard. A family of four can expect to pay $337 more to drive this summer than last.

“I am proud to join with Senator Cantwell to call on the CFTC to crack down on the speculators and market manipulators who are preying on drivers here in Seattle and across Washington state,” said Senator Murray.

“Speculators are kicking American families and small business owners while they are down, and it needs to stop.”

According to a new data set released today by Senator Cantwell and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner Bart Chilton, Honda Civic drivers are paying $8.35 per gas tank due to excessive speculation; Ford Explorer drivers are paying $14.45 more per tank; and Ford F150 drivers, the most popular pick-up, are paying $16.69 more per fill up.