Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Sunday that the “Obama administration’s new task force on gas prices doesn’t go far enough,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The Justice Department should take the lead, seize this moment, and send a message, a very strong deterrent message that this country will not tolerate the kind of illegal speculation and trading and hedge fund activity that may be driving prices up,” Mr. Blumenthal said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Note that word “may.” Industry analysts say high gas prices reflect rising global demand, a weak dollar and concerns about supply stemming from Middle East unrest. They aren’t sure what role, if any, is played by illegal activities.
The Obama administration Thursday announced a new task force to look into potential illegal activity in the oil and gas markets. It includes Department of Justice officials as well as representatives from market oversight agencies like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.
Mr. Blumenthal, a former attorney general in Connecticut, said the task force was only monitoring and not investigating the situation. ”There really needs to be an investigation, for example, involving subpoenas and compulsory process,” he said.
With gas prices “soaring, 45 Senate Democrats signed a letter on Tuesday urging GOP leaders to abandon their proposed cuts to the budget for a key regulator that oversees the food and energy markets, part of a broader effort to cut government spending,” Huffington Post reports.
The letter, sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday, argued that Republicans should protect funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which would be cut by one-third under a defeated House GOP plan.
“The CFTC serves as an important ‘cop on the beat,’ working to protect American consumers by cracking down on manipulation and other market abuses that can drive up oil prices,” the letter reads. “At a time where gas prices are rising and squeezing American families, we have a responsibility to provide our watchdogs the resources they need to fulfill their important oversight and regulatory responsibilities.”
For their part, Republican leaders “say the responsibility for rising gas prices rests with the Obama administration, which put a freeze on some offshore wells last year following the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”
You might see “some Senate Democrats talking to TV cameras in front of gas stations in their home states next week,” POLITICO reports.
Democrats are being advised to emphasize high gas prices to their advantage when they go home for a weeklong break next week as they seek to counter GOP criticism levied at the Obama administration.
“The high price of gas is the number one issue I get asked about when I’m home in New York,” according to a prepared text of a speech obtained by POLITICO that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used to address Tuesday’s Senate Democratic policy lunch in the Capitol. "And polling data shows it to be one of top issues on the people’s minds across the country.
“So, when you go home over recess, it may be worth doing press events on steps you are taking to lower the price of oil and, therefore, gasoline,” Schumer’s added in his prepared notes.
Today, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) “dismissed arguments that violent unrest across the Middle East was a main cause of surging oil and gasoline prices, placing the blame instead on plans to curb greenhouse gases,” the AFP reports.
"A lot of people are saying that the gas prices that are going up are a result, partially, of what’s happening over there," said Senator James Inhofe, his party’s senior member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change skeptic. "That isn’t the real problem."
Inhofe said that "the real problem" was Obama’s efforts to enact a cap-and-trade plan to curb emissions of greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for global warming.
"My message today simply is the higher gas prices are simply a product of this administration’s goal," said the lawmaker.