That’s been the latest story we’ve been given from Wall Street speculators. If a connection between Osama bin Laden and oil prices strikes you as a bit odd, then you are not alone. Lest we forget, these speculators are the same folks that have done their part to bring about food pricing crises around the world. As you may have heard these past months, speculators have been pointing to civil unrest in the Middle East and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar as the main culprits for the rise in oil pricing, which implies that crude oil market prices are directly tied to gasoline prices. But are the two really tied together? By the same token, is our falling dollar and civil global unrest really the culprits for our high gasoline prices at the pump? Last March Ed Schultz discussed with The Nation’s Chris Hayes the role of Wall Street speculators and why in the discussion of tackling high gasoline prices, our politicians tend to not even mention the topic of Wall Street speculators:
To be fair (and before Osama bin Laden was killed), President Obama asked Attorney General in April to “monitor” gas pricing to make sure that no illegal activity was going on:
In an attempt to address this topic, the right wing predictably chants “drill, baby drill!”: calling to open up more areas for oil drilling without regard to environmental impacts, even though such action would not result in lower gas prices. Conversely, the left talks about how our lifestyle is the one at fault because we could have prevented this situation from happening in the first place if we had been investing more in clean renenewal energy sources during the past two decades. The environmentalist perspective is all fine and correct, but it nevertheless fails to tackle the elephant in the room: Wall Street speculation.
Furthermore, while most would love to exchange their old clunker for a Prius Hybrid or electric car, most working class Americans cannot afford the monthly payments on top of their already strained budgets living paycheck-to-paycheck, let alone afford the maintenance repairs that are certain to come. Even if they could get their hands on a Prius, for most working class Americans, and especially for people of color, it’s not like they can rely on friends that happen to be car mechanics to fix a Prius (the training is simply not there) or buy old parts on the cheap from the junk yard like they could do with other cars to circumvent high repair costs. There’s a reality to face here: for better or for worse, Americans need gasoline to get to work every day and support their families.
So is there any relief in the horizon? Well, apparently now with Osama bin Laden dead and the demand for gasoline dropping as more Americans find themselves cutting back on their use because they simply can’t afford the high prices, we find that oil prices are falling. Yet, gas prices are NOT falling. You heard that right: oil prices have been falling in the stock exchange and gas prices are not. Weren’t we being told that oil prices were directly tied to gasoline prices at the pump? What gives?! Will someone stand up and call out the obvious!
I know of at least one person that has: and that’s Senator Richard Blumenthal (D). Last April 24, during a panel discussion on CBS’ Face the Nation the Senator called for a Grand Jury investigation and for Attorney General Holder to press criminal charges if necessary, which MSNBC picked up:
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is calling for a federal investigation into possible criminal activity in oil markets.
Wednesday, Sen. Blumenthal wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as the heads of the Federal Trade Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He wants the agencies to look at whether potentially illegal actions by speculators are artificially inflating oil and gas prices.
Since then, the Attorney General sent a memo to the FBI, among other agencies, to ensure that gas pricess do fall accordingly, as reported by CNN:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday ordered the newly formed government working group investigating oil and gas prices to make sure gasoline prices are dropping after this week’s sudden decline in crude oil prices.
In a statement issued at the Justice Department, Holder made clear he wants the multiple-agency task force to be alert for fraud both when oil prices are rising and when they are falling.
Holder sent his memo to several federal agencies, including the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the departments of Treasury, Energy and Agriculture. He also sent the directive to state attorneys general.
While that is welcomed news, the public needs to monitor that this is followed through. We all know how easily these public gestures quickly turn into lip service theatrics that fall by the wayside. For directions on how to contact the Office of the Attorney General directly, click here and demand a GRAND JURY investigation into this. Enough if enough: Wall Street speculators have got to be stopped. They’re hurting the health of our economy and they’re hurting America.
Update: I’m getting reports that prices in some gasoline stations have fallen 6 cents since yesterday. Hopefully more gas stations follow suit … but what’s to keep them from arbritrarily jacking up prices again?
Update # 2: well, oil prices have rallied back up. Speculation, once again, is the culprit, blaming the increase this time around to how refinaries “may be affected” by flooding along the Mississipi River … wow, so the “affecting” hasn’t even happened and so that’s justification for the prices to go back up again. Is it just me or are speculators just making things up as they go along to justify the high prices?