Friday, June 6, 2008

Heller makes noise, other members of Congress address oil price manipulation

Cross posted at Desert Beacon

Representative Dean Heller (R-NV2) would have us believe that he “can do little more than make noise about gas prices.” [RGJ] He’s managed the noise part, first writing provocative epistles to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (hardly a format designed to enhance his reputation for working across the aisle to find solutions), authoring a going-nowhere ‘demand’ for an energy “plan,” and finally asking the Financial Services Committee to hold hearings on price manipulation and speculation.

Perhaps Representative Heller didn’t get the memo: There have already been hearings concerning price manipulation and speculation, in both houses of Congress.

On the House side - Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) said that his U.S. House Energy Oversight Committee’s investigation [CNN] hasn’t uncovered illegal practices in oil and gas trading, but that loopholes in current statutes were allowing the biggest traders to ‘game the system.’ Stupak’s committee will hold a second hearing to announce the results of the entire investigation on June 23rd. [CNN]

On the Senate side - Senator Maria Cantwell chaired a Senate Commerce Committee hearing [McClatchy] (D-WA) on the subject, and is pressing both the FTC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to more closely regulate oil and commodity markets, and wants the FTC to issue an interim rule under the provisions of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act while the agency completes its ‘formal regulatory rule making process.’ Cantwell is also calling for the CFTC to revoke its ‘no action’ letters issued by its staff that allow electronic exchanges outside U.S. borders to continue trading West Texas Intermediate crude and related commodities. The Washington Senator and 20 other colleagues wrote to the CFTC on May 23rd demanding the revocation of those “no-action” letters. [OGJ] This exchange prompted the CFTC to admit that it had been ‘investigating’ the trading policies and practices in London (ICE) and Dubai since last December.

Representative Heller also voted against legislation seeking to ameliorate the current situation.

Concerning the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, (H.R. 6) cited by Senator Cantwell as offering a means to allow the FTC to address the issues immediately under its interim rule making provisions, Representative Heller voted as follows: [GovTrack]

(1) On consideration of H.R. 6, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007: NO (vote 37) January 18, 2007.
(2) On a motion to recommit the bill (to kill it) YES (vote 38) January 18, 2007.
(3) On an appeal of the ruling of the chair (‘yes would sustain the measure) NO (vote 39) January 18, 2007.
(4) On final passage of the bill NO (vote 40) January 18, 2007.
(5) On agreeing to Senate Amendments NO (vote 1140) December 6, 2007.
(6) On agreeing to Senate Amendments NO (vote 1177) December 18, 2007. Representative Heller was the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the final passage of the bill as amended.

Thus do we see the difference between making noise and being a ‘grown up’ member of Congress?

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