Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gasoline Markets Should Be Controlled

Are Wall Street speculators driving up gasoline prices?

Oil and gasoline prices are rising fast as Memorial Day weekend approaches, but not because supplies are tight or demand is high.

U.S. crude-oil inventories are at their highest levels in almost two decades, and demand has fallen to a 10-year low, but crude oil prices have climbed more than 70 percent since mid-January to a six-month high of $62.04 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, although refiners are operating at less than 85 percent of capacity, which leaves them plenty of room to churn out more gasoline if demand rises during the summer driving season, the price of gasoline at the pump has climbed 28 cents a gallon from a month earlier to $2.33.

This time, Wall Street speculators — some of them recipients of billions of dollars in taxpayers' bailout money — may be to blame.


Gasoline is too important to the economy and national security to allow its availability and price point to fluctuate according to the vagaries of an easily manipulated market in which foreign players hold sway.