With Gas Prices Rising, Brown Calls on Republicans to Abandon Plans to Gut Oil Speculation Watchdog

With Excessive Oil Speculation Driving Up Gas Prices, Democratic Senators Oppose GOP Efforts to Scale Back Enforcement of Oil Market Manipulation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With consumers feeling the pinch of rising gas prices, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined 48 Senate Democrats in sending a letter to Republican leadership urging it to abandon a proposal that would make excessive speculation in the oil markets even worse.

“At a time when gas prices are rising and squeezing American families, we have a responsibility to provide our watchdogs the resources they need to fulfill their important oversight and regulatory responsibilities,” Brown wrote. “We stand ready to work with you to come to a responsible budget compromise that will not do anything to make our gas price problem worse, or undermine the progress we are making in developing the clean energy technologies we need so we can better compete with countries like China.”

Republicans’ budget proposal, H.R. 1, would reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third, forcing layoffs to the watchdog agency that polices market manipulation that drives up oil prices.

Experts say that with demand fairly stable and supply at an all-time high, speculation is a factor driving up gas prices. One expert said speculation may add as much as $1.50 a gallon to the price consumers pay at the pump for gasoline.

***Click here to watch commodities experts explain how Republicans’ dangerous plan could leave excessive speculation unchecked.***

Republicans’ reckless spending bill would also cut billions from development of alternative fuels and clean energy technology, which would set back efforts to stay competitive with growing nations such as China while simultaneously putting America’s independence from foreign oil even further out of reach. During this period of unrest in the Middle East, freeing ourselves from our reliance on foreign oil is more important now than ever before.

The senators urged members of Senate leadership to work with Democrats to negotiate a responsible budget that makes smart cuts that don’t undermine our transition to a safe, clean and affordable energy future.

Brown is working to lower gas prices for Ohio’s families and small businesses. Last month, Brown announced new plans for cracking down on oil speculation, which may be responsible in part for driving up prices at the pump. Brown sent a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) urging the agency to use its full authority under the recently-passed financial reform bill to protect consumers and small businesses from artificially inflated gas prices.

Full text of today’s letter can be found below:

Dear Minority Leader McConnell:

As we work toward a long-term budget compromise to keep the government running through this year, we urge you to abandon the reckless energy proposals in the House-passed Continuing Resolution (H.R 1) that will condemn our country to continued reliance on foreign oil and allow market manipulation that could lead to gas prices rising unchecked.

As you know, H.R. 1 would reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third.  The CFTC serves as an important “cop on the beat,” working to protect American consumers by cracking down on manipulation and other market abuses that can drive up oil prices.  Yet your spending plan would shrink the CFTC budget back to 2008 levels, when Americans were blindsided by both record high gas prices and a financial crisis that cost us millions of jobs. According to CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler, these cuts would cause “significant curtailment of staff and resources.”  At a time where gas prices are rising and squeezing American families, we have a responsibility to provide our watchdogs the resources they need to fulfill their important oversight and regulatory responsibilities.

We find it equally troubling that your preferred budget would cut billions of dollars in investments in critical programs focused on developing new alternative fuels and clean energy technologies, undermining our competitiveness and increasing our trade deficit with oil producing nations.  We urge you to reverse these policies that will only set our nation backward, and put America’s independence from foreign oil even further out of reach.

We stand ready to work with you to come to a responsible budget compromise that will not do anything to make our gas price problem worse, or undermine the progress we are making in developing the clean energy technologies we need so we can better compete with countries like China.  Together, we can craft a sensible fiscal policy that invests in what we need to grow and cuts what doesn’t, without undermining our mission to transition to a safe, clean and affordable energy future.

Sincerely,

Senator Harry Reid
Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Patty Murray
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Kent Conrad
Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Max Baucus
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senator Mark Begich
Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Mark Pryor
Senator Richard Blumenthal
Senator Mark Udall
Senator Kay Hagan
Senator Ben Cardin
Senator Al Franken
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Jack Reed
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Mark Warner
Senator Tom Carper
Senator Daniel Akaka
Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Bob Menendez
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Chris Coons
Senator Michael Bennet
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Jon Tester
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Senator Bob Casey
Senator John Kerry
Senator Jay Rockefeller
Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Joe Lieberman
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Herb Kohl
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Tom Udall

Cc: Speaker John Boehner

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