Sanders continues push against speculators (Burlington Free Press)

By: Dan McLean

An amendment designed to curtail oil speculation failed in the U.S. Senate on Monday after Republicans blocked a vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday, adding the political maneuvering has emboldened him to continue his efforts to get federal regulators to act against speculators.

"What the Republicans are telling me is: They think it would win," Sanders said Tuesday.

Sanders' amendment, which was attached to legislation to promote travel to the U.S., would require the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to investigate the recent price spike in oil and use emergency powers to prevent the manipulation of oil prices.

"We are going to stay on this. We are going to be offering this amendment as much as we can. Unemployment is high. Peoples' wages are low. The last thing in the world we need is what these people are doing," Sanders said, describing speculators as part of "a horror movie."

The price of a barrel of crude oil hovers around $70 a barrel, roughly double the cost of earlier this year. The global recession has sapped the demand for oil, prompting Sanders to blame Wall Street speculators for the increase. Sanders, I-Vt., said he is "cautiously optimistic" his legislation will ultimately pass.

Jack McMullen, Republican nominee from Vermont for the U.S. Senate in 2004, finds himself in an unusual position. He agrees with Sanders, particularly Sanders' diagnosis that speculation is playing a role in the spike in oil prices.

McMullen also thinks federal regulators should step up oversight of the oil markets. Although McMullen says he is not familiar with all the details of Sanders' plan, he said, "I do agree with the thrust of his remedy."

The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association has endorsed Sanders' proposal.

Some Vermont economists, however, are less enthusiastic. David Colander, professor of economics at Middlebury College and Art Woolf, an economics professor at the University of Vermont, have expressed reservations about the government inserting itself into the marketplace.

"Real world markets are complex systems," Colander said last week when asked about the subject. "Speculators are part of the way supply and demand in the market works."