Obama wants to crack down on energy speculators

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U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, announced a plan Sunday, June 22, to crack down on excessive energy speculation and fully close the “Enron Loophole” to ease the impact of skyrocketing gas prices.

Obama’s campaign says the “loophole” was created by former Texas senator Phil Gramm – campaign co-chair of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain – at the behest of Enron, and exempts most over-the-counter energy trades and trading on electronic energy commodity markets from regulation.

“For the past years, our energy policy in this country has been simply to let the special interests have their way – opening up loopholes for the oil companies and speculators so that they could reap record profits while the rest of us pay $4 a gallon,” Obama said in his prepared statement. “My plan fully closes the ‘Enron Loophole’ and restores common-sense regulation as part of my broader plan to ease the burden for struggling families today while investing in a better future.”

Obama said that because of the “Enron Loophole,” “the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is unable to fully oversee the oil futures market and investigate cases where excessive speculation may be driving up oil prices.” Many economists believe that the speculation could be adding between $20 and $50 to the price of every barrel of oil, the Illinois senator said.

“A vibrant oil futures market can help producers and buyers hedge against swings in the price of oil, but an absence of common sense rules allows a few energy lobbyists and speculators to undermine the public confidence in the integrity of the market,” Obama said. “It’s another example of the special interest politics that put the interests of Big Oil and speculators ahead of the interests of working people.”

Obama also announced that he wants to:

  • Ensure that U.S. energy futures cannot be traded on unregulated offshore exchanges;
  • Work with other countries to coordinate regulation of oil futures markets; and
  • Call on the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to vigorously investigate market manipulation in oil futures.
  • McCain spokesman Tucker Bonds told news agencies Sunday, June 22, that the bill with the “loophole” was signed into law by former President Clinton and that McCain supports efforts to close it.