NEWS ROUNDUP: At Events Across WA, Cantwell Demands CFTC Enact Overdue Rules on Oil Speculation

This Week, Sen. Cantwell Highlighted the Need to Implement Overdue Speculation Rules at Events in Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) highlighted the impact of rising gas prices on Washington families and businesses during three stops across Washington state this week. In visits to Seattle, Spokane, and Vancouver, Cantwell demanded that federal agencies crack down on oil speculation, and spoke with local business and non-profit leaders who have been hurt by rising gas prices.

At the events, Cantwell called on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to use the authority that Congress granted them last year to crack down on excessive oil market speculation. 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 roundup of news coverage from across Washington state is below:


The Columbian: Cantwell Takes Aim at High Gas Prices

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Wednesday brought together a few people to talk about the impact of rising gas prices. They met at the Shell station on Vancouver Mall Drive, where the price of a gallon of regular was $3.899 — for the moment.                                                                                               

The rising cost of gas is hurting Washington’s economic recovery, Cantwell said. “It’s hitting truckers, it’s hitting transit. These prices are slowing down job growth and forcing families to survive on less.”

But it’s not a shortage of oil on the world market that’s causing the volatility, she said. “In reality, there is enough supply to meet demand.”

Instead, she said, the problem is the failure of a somewhat obscure agency to implement the Wall Street reforms Congress enacted last year.

Specifically, Cantwell said, the five-member Commodity Futures Trading Commission is dragging its feet on using a tool Congress gave it to curb speculation and temper wild price swings by capping the value of oil futures any one investor can control.

“Vancouver drivers are paying at the pump for excessive oil speculation, while federal regulators have blown off deadlines and failed to act,” Cantwell declared. “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, I’m demanding that they use those tools to help relieve the burden of gas prices on families and small businesses in Vancouver and across the country.”


The Seattle Times: Cantwell blames speculators for sharp hike in gas prices

Americans can blame speculators for adding to the high cost of gasoline and heating oil, argues U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.               

“There is strong evidence the recent surge in gas prices has little to do with the fundamental supply and demand for oil," says a letter signed by Cantwell, along with Sen. Patty Murray and 11 other senators — 10 other Democrats and one independent — requesting a crackdown by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The senators say traders are exploiting political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa to drive up prices.

About 64 cents a gallon can be attributed to over-speculation, according to an analysis by Cantwell's staff and a CFTC commissioner, Bart Chilton.

Chilton supports limits on how much of the market a trader may control.

Some speculation is healthy because it makes future prices more predictable, said Chilton. But speculation has reached a "blistering pace," he said, driving prices up nearly two-thirds since mid-2008.


KPLU-FM (Tacoma/Seattle): Local business hurt by gas prices seek help from Congress

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell say Wall Street speculation in the oil and gas market is directly affecting small business in Washington.                                                                     

At a news conference held at Local Roots Organic in Seattle they were joined by several business owners who said high gas prices are taking a toll on their bottom line.

[Ballard Oil Company Owner Warren] Aakervik lets them know when it looks like prices might go down even further and they should hold off.  But, with the current volatility, he says it's been impossible to monitor the price.

“A month ago, it went up 11 cents a gallon in one day and we’ve seen decreases of 24 cents in one day," he said.

What's happening, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell, is speculators are now manipulating the commodities markets to make a quick buck.

"I would say what happened with the housing market and what’s happening with the oil markets is the lack of proper policing and oversight. Just because you can cook up the next exotic instrument doesn’t mean at we should allow that," he said.

Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray are frustrated that new regulation passed by Congress has not been implemented by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. They hope that hearing from businesses on Main Street will prompt the Commission to act.


KUOW Radio (Seattle): Washington's Senators Blame Speculators For Rising Gas Prices

Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray assembled a small group of local businesspeople to talk about how rising commodity prices affect them.

They included the head of an organic grocery delivery service, an oil distributor and a pizza maker. They all said they were paying a lot more not just for gasoline but for a whole host of items that are affected by high energy prices. Doug McClure is one of the founders of Zeek's Pizza.

McClure: "This is like 2008 all over again for us, we're seeing rapid spikes in our goods, 35 percent increase in the price of cheese, 15 percent for pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon — flour going through the roof."

There are probably many reasons prices are rising, but the senators say it's not just about supply and demand. They blame out of control financial markets. They say speculators have flooded the commodities futures markets and excessive speculation is causing prices to artificially rise.


KXLY-TV Spokane(Transcript) Today, Senators Cantwell and Murray joined 11 others calling for an investigation into the rise of prices. They say it's not supply and demand driving prices at the pump - but, speculators, playing on fears over unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.


KEPR-TV Yakima(Transcript) And today -- Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell addressed those concerns. They say there aren't enough rules put in place for the oil industry. New federal rules went into effect last year, giving the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -the power to police excessive oil market speculation - but the senators claim the commission's dragging its feet. Senator Murray says, "We cannot afford for this to continue." Senator Maria Cantwell says, "We have to have new rules in place to police these markets that this is impacting our economy and that our small businesses and our economy cannot afford this increase in oil prices."


KIRO-TV Seattle(Transcript) Tonight, both our state's U.S. senators are calling attention to one thing they see impacting gas prices. Senators Maria Cantwell, and Patty Murray teamed up with small business owners at New Roots Organics. Some traders are exploiting unrest in the Middle East to drive up prices. Senator Cantwell said, “We have to have new rules in place to police these markets, that this is impacting our economy, and that our small businesses and our economy cannot afford this increase in oil prices.”