Lawmakers ask for tighter regulations on oil speculation

Over the past several weeks, gas prices have continued to rise, putting pressure on consumers’ pockets across the country. In addition, experts have said that prices are unlikely to recede before the summer, when high demand traditionally pushes prices at the pump even higher.

While many people are taking steps to save fuel and reduce the amount of driving they do, a group of lawmakers is asking the government to work to drop oil prices by putting a tighter rein on speculative trading in oil futures.

In a letter*, sent to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by 23 senators and 45 members of House, they called for the agency to take action and quickly implement tough regulations that would reduce the impact of trading on oil prices.

Changes part of Dodd-Frank Act

The restrictions on speculation were part of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was originally passed in 2010. According to the letter, the rules had been set to go into effect by January 2011, but are still not in place.

The controversial rules would limit the amount of different contracts a particular trader can hold among specific types of commodities. While proposed limits were laid out last fall, the agency has delayed finalizing them while it works on other complex and intersecting rules.

Some say costs are significant

Many economists have said that speculative trading has a relatively negligible impact on the price of gasoline, and do not feel that the new rules will have much of an impact.

Others go in the opposite direction. During a speech earlier this month, CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton** said that trading may add as much as $23 to the price of a barrel of oil, which translates to about 56 cents per gallon. For a standard pickup truck such as a Ford F-150, that means trading may add more than $14 to the cost of each fill-up.

The high prices have led some lawmakers to push the federal government to open up its strategic oil reserves, Reuters*** reports. That would increase supply and hopefully reduce prices while the economy continues its slow recovery.

*according to Senator Bernie Sanders on March 5, 2012
**according to CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton on March 8, 2012
***according to Reuters on March 5, 2012
via Peter Montanez

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