Feinstein wants limited gas speculation

The national average now stands at $4.06 a gallon, up more than $1.00 from a year ago and Bay Area prices are even higher. Crude oil futures eased a bit today, down a $1.88, to $134.86 a barrel. So, how much is "speculation" driving up the price of oil?

Senator Feinstein's legislation is the latest in a growing list of bills targeting oil traders. She wants to limit the amount of oil big institutional traders can buy and sell.

With oil futures trading at frantic pace on the Chicago Exchange, Senator Dianne Feinstein's concern is that speculators are driving up the price, particularly big institutional investors.

Most traders are limited to no more than 20 million barrels at a time. But, intuitional investors are exempted from that limit.

"If institutional investors today are buying more than that it is, in my view, effecting price," says Feinstein.

The Saudi's are blaming speculators for the high price, but many oil experts don't agree.

Professor Severin Borenstein heads the U.C. Energy Institute and says "this idea that somehow speculators are somehow doing this to us is really not supported in the data at all."

Senator Feinstein admits she has a jaundiced view of traders.

"Ever since I heard a trader saying about California, 'lets stick it to Grandma Millie', I know that these guys will do anything to make a buck."

Feinstein is referring to the traders caught on tape during California's energy crisis. It was largely because of that 2001 energy crisis that Governor Gray Davis was recalled by California voters for.

ABC 7 political analyst Bruce Cain believes that's a big reason why we're seeing so much attention to this issue in Washington.

"I think there are two things we know about the energy crisis. One is that you have to be seen to be doing something and the second thing is that the best time to take a strong stand is when you know it won't pass," says Cain.

Professor Cain believes President Bush will surely veto legislation that limits the oil market. And in Chicago, oil trader Phil Flynn says attempts to increase regulation could backfire.

"The oil markets are a global market and if you try to regulate them too much in the U.S.,traders will simply move to another country such as Dubai," says Flynn.

Feinstein says Congress is working on legislation to try and shut down that foreign market loophole. But, if you're wondering how this will impact the price at the pump, the U.S. Energy Department projects that gasoline prices will continue to go up, probably another 15 to 20 cents a gallon through August.

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