As gasoline prices continue to sop up your disposable income and mine, some of our nation’s leaders are focusing on speculators and price manipulators. Deja vu all over again: Every time gasoline prices spike, investigations are launched.
Personally, I’ve always wondered why we should expect the people who own the gasoline to sell it to us at a price we find acceptable. If they charge $4 a gallon and we pay it, why should we expect them to charge less? When you sell something, do you set the price as low as possible, out of tender concern for the purchaser?
Maybe I’m missing something.
Let’s hear from our congressman, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who released a statement on the the announcement that the Department of Justice has established the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group. In his statement, he notes that he voted in favor of a similar investigation the last time gas prices hit these levels. (How did that investigation turn out? I’m asking Larsen’s office to report back. Watch for an update.)
UPDATE–from Larsen spokeswoman Emily Halnon. She reports that Larsen twice voted in favor of price relief legislation that passed the House but never cleared the Senate:
“H.R. 6074, the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008. It passed the House on May 20, 2008, by a vote of 324-84, was sent to the Senate but was never taken up for a vote before the 110th Congress ended.
Additionally, he voted in favor of H.R. 1252, the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act, which passed the House May 23, 2007 by a vote of 284-141. Again, the Senate did not take up the bill.”
Here is Larsen’s earlier emailed comment. Among other things, he observes that the U.S. needs “long-term investments and policy changes” to get off the gasoline price roller coaster:
“Last week the President’s announced the formation of an Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group. This group must take a hard look at the manipulation of gas prices – determining where and when any fraud of prices took place. We must make sure that every effort is being taken to identify and halt speculation.
“All across Washington, families and small businesses are once again struggling to meet the demanding budget strain caused by skyrocketing gas prices. When gas prices hit record highs three years ago, I voted in favor of the creation of a task force similar to the one now being formed. I expect this group to present a complete picture to the President and hope any findings of manipulation will be swiftly addressed by the Administration and by Congress.
“There is no simple fix or solution for rising gas prices. We must crack down on speculators, but ultimately long-term investments and policy changes are the only way to stabilize our energy future. I will continue to listen and work with my constituents to address their needs. This situation affects all of us and we must take the necessary steps to end the cycle.”
On August 21st, the President and Attorney General Eric Holder announced the formation of the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group. In his memo outlining the group (http://www.justice.gov/ag/AG_Memo_to_FFETF-Gas_Prices.pdf) Mr. Holder called for the exploration of “whether there is any evidence of manipulation of oil and gas prices, collusion, fraud or misinterpretations at the retail or wholesale levels that would violate state or federal laws and that has harmed consumers…” and the evaluation of “the role of speculators and index traders in oil futures markets.”
The Energy Information Administration reports that the average price of unleaded regular fuel in Washington last week was $3.94 per gallon, 88 cents higher than it was one year ago and ten cents higher than the national average.