Congress is officially out of town this week, but House Democrats found enough members to convene a hearing today and examine the role oil speculation plays in high gasoline prices.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the spike in gasoline prices “the agony and the ecstasy.” She said the agony was for consumers "for the price at the pump, especially people who [are] having trouble making ends meet. The ecstasy," she said, "is for big oil."
A pair of witnesses blamed the price spike on speculators who’ve “taken over” the commodity markets. The head of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Marketers Association, Gene Guilford, said a hurricane or a war didn’t cause the spike at the pump. Guilford told lawmakers it was excessive speculation.
"Which is a fancy word for saying that gamblers wearing Wall Street suits have taken these markets over," Guilford said, "and are controlling the price, creating investment vehicles that are designed to push the price of oil up."
Michael Greenberger, a former boss at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said it’s the same strategy that created the mortgage meltdown: "Gambling by Wall Street on the price of oil." He said the largest holder of heating oil for New England was the financial giant Morgan Stanley.
Republicans have been blaming the White House for the high price of gasoline. There wasn’t a single Republican on the panel.
Democrats on the House Steering and Policy Committee blamed their GOP colleagues for cutting the budget of the watchdog agency tasked with overseeing the commodities market.