Sanders calls for Big Oil crackdown

BURLINGTON - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claims Wall Street speculators are driving up oil and gas prices to near record high. Last week, Sanders urged President Obama to ask for the immediate resignation of federal regulators who won't enforce a new law to stop excessive speculation in oil markets.

Gasoline pump prices in Vermont average $3.90 a gallon, a penny more than the national average. At the same time, oil companies posted record profits. ExxonMobil's $10.7 billion first-quarter profit was 69 percent greater than one year ago.

"The skyrocketing cost of gasoline is causing severe economic pain to millions of Americans who have already suffered through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," Sanders said in a letter to Obama. "In Vermont, where it is not uncommon for people to commute 100 miles to work and back five days a week, the increased price of gas is taking a serious bite out of the paychecks of middle class families, many of whom are already working longer hours for lower wages."

With that backdrop, Sanders asked the president to intercede with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal regulatory body that has failed to rein in the rampant speculation artificially driving up oil prices.

The Wall Street reform law enacted last year required the commission to impose so-called position limits, which would restrict the amount of oil that speculators could trade in the energy futures market. The law called for the tough new regulations to take effect by Jan. 22. The commission balked. Now, three months later, the price of gasoline has gone up 80-cents a gallon because of the commission's hands-off approach to the markets it is supposed to regulate.

Only two of the five sitting commissioners support strong limits that the new Wall Street law envisioned. It takes three commissioners to adopt a new rule. The president, Sanders said, should insist that the law be enforced and demand the immediate resignation of commissioners who refuse to do their job.

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