Today, Congressman Leonard Boswell requested a full House Agriculture Committee hearing and investigation into the relationship between rising oil prices and Wall Street speculators.
"As Ranking Member of the Agriculture Subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, I have a responsibility to ensure speculators are not exploiting oil supply fears to make big profits," Boswell said. "The CFTC determined in 2008 that Wall Street speculators were increasing their positions in energy markets to capitalize off of political unrest in heavy oil-producing nations. Energy prices drive up the cost of goods across the board, from input costs on the farm to the food on the kitchen table. I am calling for a hearing to make sure that Wall Street and Big Oil are not purposely driving up prices once again to make a quick buck on the backs of the middle class and small business owners who are hit the hardest when the price of gas skyrockets."
Boswell co-led the letter with Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont to Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Mike Conaway.
"While speculators are driving up gas prices to make a quick buck, working Americans don't have room in the budget for four dollar a gallon gasoline," Welch said. "Although skyrocketing gas prices are good for oil companies' profits, they are not good for America's economy. We should be doing everything we can to ensure Americans are not forced to pay a speculative premium on top of already out-of-control gas prices. This is a good place to start."
Boswell added, "The Agriculture Committee has a history of investigating oil speculation when gas prices reach record levels, regardless of what party is in charge. It is my hope that Committee leadership will take the issue of rising gas prices seriously, as well as our hearing request, and allow daylight to be shed on this important issue."
The text of the letter is below.
Dear Chairmen Lucas and Conaway:
We are writing to request the Committee conduct a hearing to examine the recent rise in energy prices, particularly for oil and gasoline. The American public wants reassurance that these high prices are completely attributable to market forces and not due to speculation or manipulation in the futures or spot markets for energy.
The Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has a long history of examining rises in energy prices and how they impact the agricultural sector. Since 2006, the Committee has held three hearings on this issue, under both Republican and Democrat majorities, which only further demonstrates the bipartisan commitment of the Committee to examine drastic price fluctuations in the price of oil.
In the last four months, oil prices have risen to date by 25% and we have not yet reached the summer peak season when oil and gasoline prices experience further increases. On March 31st, the House Committee on Natural Resources held its own hearing looking into rising gasoline prices. At that hearing, witnesses including Mr. William P. Graves on behalf of the American Trucking Association and Mr. Michael J. Fox, Executive Director of the Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America raised concerns about continuing speculation in today's energy markets.
Given the increase in energy prices and continued concern about speculation in energy markets, we believe it is appropriate and imperative that our Committee conduct its own hearing into energy prices and bring in representatives from the CFTC and the Department of Energy who can give us their views regarding what is occurring in the energy markets. We look forward to working with you to bring such a hearing to fruition in the immediate future.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (IA-03)
Rep. Peter Welch (VT)
Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01)
Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)
Rep. James McGovern (MA-03)
Rep. Bill Owens (NY-23)
Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Rep. Larry Kissell (NC-08)