Wall Street Oil Speculators Hurt Families, U.S. Economy

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OilWatchdog and other critics of commodity speculation have long said that rampant speculation in oil futures markets  has hurt families, cost jobs and kept the U.S. economy teetering on the edge of recession. Energy analyst Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America, in a nailed-down new study, finds that speculators are adding about $600 to the average family’s annual gasoline tab, even as unemployment stays far above normal and gasoline consumption well below average.

Cooper says:

By building on analyses and testimony offered by the Consumer Federation of America during the rapid expansion of oil commodity market trading and the escalation of price in the mid-2000s, the paper shows that excessive speculation, not market fundamentals caused the spike in oil prices. The movement of trading and prices in the three years since the speculative bubble in oil burst in 2008 provides even stronger evidence that excessive speculation is a major problem that afflicts the oil market and the economy. …

Failing to provide effective oversight of speculation, policy makers allowed the enrichment of Wall Street speculators through financialization of commodities like oil, at the expense of the real economy on Main Street.

The Consumer Fed study concludes that the gambling of market speculators adds about $30 to the average price of a 42-gallon barrel of oil, now hovering near $85 in the U.S. That translates to nearly $1 a gallon, once refining and financial carrying costs are added in. Think what the costs are to truckers, railroads and airlines, as well as farmers and manufacturers.

Yet our regulators, specifically the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission, have been so cowed by financial lobbyists that they have endlessly delayed  regulations that would begin to halt excessive speculation. A vote on key regulations is scheduled for Tuesday Oct. 18, and the 5-member CFTC board now reportedly has three votes to pass them.

Main Street can’t wait much longer.

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