(Duluth News Tribune)
With gas prices sprinting toward $4 a gallon — and probably going higher — Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar got to wondering: Can we limit excessive price speculation in the oil markets like we attempted in 2008, the last time gas prices spiked? Congress responded then with measures to rein in the sort of speculating by hedge funds, investment banks and other financial entities that artificially and unfairly inflates gas prices.
Yesterday, at a busy gas station in Minneapolis, Klobuchar answered that question: Yes, we can. Or, at least we can try. She announced a letter she sent to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission urging immediate action.
A letter? Big deal, right? Well, this letter carries a little weight. Klobuchar, in addition to being a U.S. senator, serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, the very committee that oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Anyone at that busy gas station Monday who didn’t stop filling their tanks long enough to applaud Klobuchar mustn’t have been paying attention. Or they couldn’t hear her over the cha-chinging of cash registers.
“When we saw oil prices rise to record levels in 2008, I said we needed a cop on the beat to protect American families and businesses from artificially high gas prices created by excessive speculation,” Klobuchar said, according to a statement released by her office. “Now is the time to make sure the cop is on the job, vigilant and armed with the authority to enforce fair rules in the marketplace.”
Gas prices have jumped at least 50 cents per gallon since the beginning of the year and are nearly $1 per gallon higher than last summer. Every penny-per-gallon increase costs American consumers another $1 billion, Klobuchar said.
“High gas prices affect consumers at the pump, and they increase costs for farmers and businesses, large and small,” she said. “For airlines like Delta and Sun Country, the high fuel prices hurt them, too.”
Will Klobuchar’s letter net the desired result: fairer gas pricing? Remains to be seen. The commission never did adopt Congress’ 2008 provisions; even though they would have helped assure supply-demand market forces were determining gas prices, rather than the financial manipulation of non-oil traders.
Anyone who has to empty their wallet just to fill their gas tank can applaud Klobuchar and others watching out for them, for doing what can be done. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission can respond by doing what’s right by the motoring public.