In a package of stories today on rising gas prices, the Oregonian included a McClatchy piece (bylined Kevin G. Hall) listing three moves regulators could take (endorsed to date, it notes, not by Bush, McCain or Obama) that could choke off some of the price increases. One is strengthening the dollar, which could have a wide range of other effects as well. A second is dipping into the strategic oil reserve, which probably makes sense but has some issues too.
The third seems a no-brainer: "Perhaps the quickest action, the experts said, would be ordering curbs on financial speculation. Financial industry heavyweights have acknowledged before Congress that such speculation is driving oil prices higher. Pension funds, endowments and other big institutional investors are pumping big money into index funds linked to commodities, including oil, driving up demand - and prices." Such restrictions could be enacted by a simple presidential order, or congressional action.
We've been watching for a while for a candidate for federal office, anywhere, to address this - it would seem one of the easiest and most useful steps available in the short term. Today, we ran across the first we've seen (if you've seen others, let us know), from Oregon Senate candidate Jeff Merkley.
In a release on gas price policy, he offered support for the Consumer-First Energy Act (S. 3044) which among other things, he wrote, will "Stop Wall Street speculation by preventing U.S. contracts to be traded on foreign exchanges and closing the "Enron Loophole," which allows energy commodities to be traded on markets exempt from any federal, state, or local oversight. The Farm Bill included language that was intended to close the Enron Loophole, but the CFTC has said that it will not treat crude oil contracts as covered by the amendment."
This would seem an obvious political hammer. And to useful purpose, too.