WASHINGTON – The Obama Administration has proposed a five-part plan that would give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) greater power to monitor and enforce trading in energy markets, such as oil and gas.
The goal of the program is to reduce speculation in oil markets, for example that caused by geopolitical supply concerns, such as tensions with Iran, and has at least partially caused the recent spike in gas prices.
“At a time when instability in the Middle East is contributing to rising global oil prices that impact consumers at the pump, it is critically important to give American families confidence that illegal manipulation, fraud and market rigging are not contributing to gas price increases,” the White House stated.
The White House plan calls on Congress to pass these measures to “legal manipulation by financial traders is not contributing to prices at the pump.”
The first part of the plan calls for more “cops on the beat” to oversee oil markets. The proposal asks Congress to increase funding to six times the current level to support additional staff to monitor, and enforce rules, in oil futures trading. This would increase funding from $52 million in FY-2012 to $308 million in FY-2013.
The next part of the plan asks Congress to fund IT upgrades to further strengthen the CFTC’s ability to monitor energy market trading. Part three of the plan calls for increased civil and criminal penalties for manipulation in “key energy markets,” from $1 million to $10 million. Part four gives the CFTC more power to increase margin requirements for trading in oil futures markets (the margin requirement is the amount of money an investor must put into a margin account before being able to buy on margin or sell short), and part five calls for greater analysis of data (confidentiality laws prevent the release of some aggregated data to the public) by bringing in outside experts.
The national average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline increased 1 cent to $2.88 for the week ending July 16 and has climbed 3 cents since the Fourth of July holiday, according to AAA.