(July 17, 2007) In a series of hearings last week on Capitol Hill, members of Congress shed light on the most significant source of volatile energy prices -- excessive speculation and manipulation on the unregulated energy commodity futures markets.
Seven years ago, Enron lobbyists sought to free their new experiment in electronic trading, "Enron Online," from oversight by the principle regulator of energy futures and derivatives, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
They managed to drop a loophole into an appropriations bill that has effectively exempted all electronic over-the-counter energy commodity markets from US regulation.
Before this bill was passed, crude oil was under $25 per barrel and motorists enjoyed affordable gasoline.
Since then, energy commodity traders and hedge funds have poured billions of dollars into these "dark markets."
According to a bipartisan report published by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, excessive speculation may be responsible for as much as $20-$25 of a barrel of crude oil.