Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act of 2008

By:  Bob Goodlatte
Date: Sept. 18, 2008
Location: Washington, DC


COMMODITY MARKETS TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 18, 2008)

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

For the past few years, the Committee on Agriculture has taken a proactive approach to try to understand and monitor the issue of trading activity in the futures markets and conduct appropriate oversight. This was so we could make an informed decision about whether or not commodity markets need greater transparency and accountability.

Last week, CFTC Acting Chairman Walt Lukken presented a 6-month study of the futures market to the committee. Chairman Lukken and his staff spent a lot of hours and a great deal of work over the past 3 months to produce that report. We appreciated their efforts, especially for keeping an aggressive timetable.

The CFTC report was useful in providing a reference point in determining the relationship between index fund-related activity in the over-the-counter markets and commodity futures, and energy and agriculture prices in the United States.

However, as we move forward today with H.R. 6604, there are key factors for us to consider.

One, after hearing testimony from Mr. Lukken, and after examining the findings of this report, it is evident that our priority should be ensuring that the CFTC has the tools and resources it needs to protect and preserve the integrity of our futures markets.

The CFTC devoted more than 30 employees and 4,000 staff hours to produce this report. Those who have read the report all agree that these broad snapshots of the markets are necessary, but the CFTC does not have the staff to dedicate to similar projects.

This bill directs the CFTC to hire 100 additional employees. But because there has not been a single appropriations bill passed by both Chambers and presented to the President, I have no idea how the already underfunded agency will be able to do so.

The Democratic leadership is fond of pointing the finger of blame, but ultimately the Democratic leadership has one duty, to consider and pass the appropriations bills that fund the government. The Democratic leadership has refused to execute this duty and has failed the American taxpayer.

Second, this bill will not reduce the price of oil. It will not relieve the burden many Americans face at the gas pump. In order to achieve that very important goal, Congress must focus on creating a viable energy policy that goes beyond the measures passed thus far to increase the domestic supply of energy sources and promote energy independence.

Though I have concerns that some of the provisions in H.R. 6604 are too far-reaching, I will continue to support this bill to ensure that the CFTC has all the tools it needs to preserve and protect the integrity of our futures markets.

But I know, as I have worked closely with the chairman of the committee, who has worked in a very bipartisan fashion to fashion this legislation and address these concerns and make sure the CFTC has the necessary oversight authority and capability, that this bill would provide for it.

I also know that this is not what the American people want and need when it comes to energy. I know that there are many on the other side of the aisle who are hoping still to have an opportunity to vote, not on a hoax, not on a sham like we did 2 days ago, but on a real American energy bill that provides for real offshore drilling, not a bill that would shut off 80 to 90 percent of the known oil and natural gas reserves from access, not a bill that does nothing to promote nuclear power, not a bill that doesn't take up consideration of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, not a bill that shuts us off from tapping into the oil shale reserves that are in tremendous abundance in the Rocky Mountain States, not a bill that does nothing for coal-to-liquid and other clean coal technologies that would benefit the American people, since we have the largest coal reserves in the world, not a bill that imposes tax increases in order to get to the alternative forms of energy that the American people want to have, but, rather, the American Energy Act, something that we asked this Congress to bring up before we went into a 5-week August recess.

While the Speaker of the House ordered the microphones turned off, the C-SPAN cameras turned off, the lights turned down low, we stayed here day after day, week after week, calling for a vote on the American Energy Act. We didn't get it.

Instead, we got this sham hoax that won't produce a drop of new oil, won't produce a cubic foot of new natural gas, will do nothing for nuclear power, will do nothing for coal, will do nothing for alternative forms of energy. It is simply an effort to try to derail what the American people clearly wanted to see on the floor of this House.

We still haven't seen it. This bill doesn't do it. We need to have that vote, and that's what the debate should be about here today, not this legislation which is good, but does not do what the American people want.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As I say, I appreciate working with the gentleman from North Carolina and the gentleman from Minnesota on this legislation.

I think this legislation gives to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission the necessary tools for appropriate oversight and enforcement. I think this is a light touch. I do not think that it interferes in the marketplace.

And I think that the evidence that was brought forth by the recent report submitted by the CFTC is very strong evidence that the marketplace is working very well, but it needs constant vigilance. We can see that with the difficulties that are being experienced around the country and around the world in other types of markets.

Certainly in the mortgage area and other financial areas, the risk of not giving the regulatory agencies the appropriate authority to do oversight and to act is certainly a grave concern. But I think we are doing that in this area. I think the CFTC is doing that in this area, and I think this legislation will help to enhance their ability to remain vigilant in making sure that this market operates properly; that there is not excessive speculation; that there is not manipulation of this marketplace.

Having said all of that, I will say, once again, that this is not the issue that we should be debating here today. I support this legislation. I will vote for it. But we deserve an opportunity to vote on what the American people want. And poll after poll have shown that they want to see a real energy act. They know that the problem with the high price of energy is the lack of supply. They know the problem with the disruption of our energy supply that just occurred due to Hurricane Ike is because we have not enough refinery capacity in this country, and that it is not distributed around the United States.

The American Energy Act provides for using abandoned U.S. military bases to build new refineries. We haven't built a new one in more than 30 years. And the bill that was brought to the floor of the House by the Democratic leadership earlier this week did absolutely nothing in that area.

We're now importing refined petroleum products, paying a higher price. We're seeing more and more billions of dollars going out of this country every week, costing America jobs, harming our economy because we are so dependent upon foreign oil, at the same time that we have huge resources, not just oil, but natural gas, coal, the potential of new nuclear power, as well as a whole array of alternative sources of energy like wind and solar and geothermal and biomass and hydrogen. All of these things are available to us if we will take the leadership here in this Congress and get the American Government out of the way of developing these new sources of energy. But, instead of doing that, we bring a no drill, no energy bill to the floor that was clearly a sham, a hoax on the American people.

We have abundant resources in oil. The estimates are that we could be producing 3 to 4 million barrels of oil from the Outer Continental Shelf. The bill that was brought forth on the floor of the House shuts off 80 to 90 percent of that oil from access to the marketplace because they don't allow drilling.

I introduced legislation, as have other people, to allow drilling off the coast of our respective States. I've introduced one for Virginia that has strong support in our delegation. And yet the legislation that was brought forward earlier this week does not provide any royalties for the States. So our Governor, Democratic Governor of the State has already indicated that if the State can't benefit from deriving royalties that can be used for developing better transportation systems, alternative forms of energy, public education and so on, if it can't be used for that, he's not interested in participating. So that bill was meaningless. It was a sham.

We need to bring forth real legislation like the American Energy Act that shares those royalties with the States so that they're able to do that.

It's estimated that we could have a million barrels of oil a day coming down the pipeline that already exists in Canada, if we would drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area the size of the State of South Carolina; and the area that would be utilized for drilling for oil is about 2,000 acres, like a postage stamp on a football field. That's how much of this land of this huge area would be utilized. The people of Alaska support it. The Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, supports it.

Are we doing that?

No. Wouldn't even bring it up. Wouldn't bring up a bill that we could even offer an amendment to to allow for that to take place.

Meanwhile, the oil that comes from the Prudhoe Bay area is declining. It was 2.1 million barrels a day at its peak. It's now down to 700,000 barrels a day. We're told that when it gets down to 300,000 barrels a day, we'll have to close down the pipeline because it's not economically efficient to transport the oil.

At the same time we could be adding a million barrels of oil a day for an estimated 30 years, we're at risk of losing not just that million, but an additional 300,000 barrels of oil a day, about 6 percent of the consumption in this country every day for 30 years.

And then look at the oil shale available in the Rocky Mountain States. Here we have an estimated somewhere between 800 billion and 2 trillion barrels of oil that can be extracted from that oil shale, much like the Canadians are extracting oil from tar sands in Canada. So while they're doing that in Canada, this Congress last year passed legislation that prohibits the United States Government from buying that oil from Canada.

And then in terms of our own reserves which are huge, to just give you an idea, since the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, until today, the entire world has used about 1 trillion barrels of oil. And yet we're leaving untapped, because legislation was not brought forward to address it, untapped, 800 billion to 2 trillion barrels of oil available to us in that oil shale deposits in the Rocky Mountain States. It's a shame, Mr. Speaker, that we're not doing that today.

Coal reserves. We have more coal reserves than any other nation in the world. New technology exists to convert it to liquid that can be used for transportation purposes. We have new technology that is cleaner burning coal, and yet we're not doing anything in the legislation that was offered here earlier this week to tap into that.

Nuclear power. It's been correctly noted here today that while the United States still derives 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, France today gets close to 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. They continue to develop that technology. We haven't, for 30 years. We haven't for 30 years built a single new nuclear power plant. There are now some on the drawing boards, thanks to legislation that the Congress adopted 2 years ago to incentivize that.

But because of regulations that stand in the way, we will not have the opportunity to see a single kilowatt hour of electricity generated from those new nuclear power plants for at least 10 years. Why?

Because this Democratic leadership would not bring up legislation like the American Energy Act that enables that.

The same thing with the development of alternative fuels like wind and solar and geothermal and hydrogen and biomass. What do they do to incentivize? They increase taxes. That's the last thing we need right now when the American economy is in the condition that it's in, to have tax increases to pay for something that we could pay for with the royalties that would come from drilling offshore, from drilling in Alaska, from tapping into that oil shale, from drilling for natural gas where the largest deposit known in the world is in the Gulf of Mexico, and yet we can't have access to it.

There's natural gas all down the eastern coast of the United States. We can't have access to that. Why? Because they won't share the royalties with the States and it won't happen. And they've kept some of these areas off limits in their legislation as well.

This is a travesty, Mr. Speaker. We should be having the American Energy Act on the floor today. That's what the American people want. That's what will create millions of American jobs in creating this new energy, and in revitalizing our industry and revitalizing manufacturing and strengthening agricultural production in this country and strengthening all of American commerce, making us more competitive with the rest of the world if we would simply seek to be energy independent, which we could accomplish in 10 or 15 years if the leadership of this Congress would simply bring forward legislation that would enable us to empower America to have real energy independence and real American jobs and save this economy.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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