How Wall Street Is Raising the Price of Gas

By ABC News

Feb 23, 2012 8:06pm
gty gas prices nt 120223 wblog How Wall Street Is Raising the Price of Gas

                                                               (Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

ABC News’ Mark Greenblatt Reports:

Every time you fill up your car with gas, your dollar ends up in the hands of  a wide range of interests from around the world. Some of your money goes to oil companies, some  of what you pay goes to refineries, and more still gets divided up by the gas stations you stop at.

What may surprise you, however, is what one of Wall Street’s top regulators has to say about who else you’re paying: speculators on Wall Street.

Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,  the federal agency that regulates commodity futures and option trading in the United States, said it’s time to look at home — in addition to overseas — when searching for the reasons why gas prices are on the rise.

“I’m fired up,” Chilton said. “I’m concerned and we have to look after consumers.”

According to Chilton, much of the problem is actually “made in the USA,” created by Wall Street traders who gamble on oil prices.

“There aren’t markets without speculation,” Chilton told ABC News. “It’s the excessive speculation we are concerned about.”

Chilton, who has served as commissioner since 2007, said far too few players control far too much of the market, allowing them to push the price of gas higher and higher.  Chilton and the CFTC are attempting to implement caps on the total positions speculators can take when trading in the oil futures markets.

Chilton obtained an energy research report from Goldman Sachs spelling out how much the Wall Street firm estimated speculators had pushed up the real price of oil sold to make gas, due to large bets in the markets.

Using the numbers from in the Goldman Sachs report, combined with current information from the CFTC, Chilton calculated how much speculation is driving up the price at the pump for the average consumer.

He shared calculations with ABC News for the first time.

By Chilton’s calculation, if you drive a car like a Honda Civic, you’re paying $7.30 more than you should every time you fill up — to Wall Street speculators.  If your car is a Ford Explorer you’re paying an extra $10.41.

For a Ford F150,  he says owners pay an additional $14.56 per fill up -or more than $750 a year.

For their part, industry groups representing Wall Street say there is no evidence their trading activities actually push up the price of oil.

Chilton isn’t doesn’t buy that argument.  He and the CFTC are currently attempting to implement new rules that would put limits on speculation.   In response, Wall Street is suing the CFTC attempting to get an injunction, which would allow everything to remain status quo.

“They don’t want these limits,” he said. “They want unbridled ability to speculate in these markets and that’s not good for consumers. It’s not good for markets. It’s not good for the economy.”

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