Let's Go After the Oil Companies and Speculators!

Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on Thursday to talk about ways to bring down sky-high prices for gasoline and oil. "Every American understands that we now have a national crisis in terms of the outrageously high price that we're paying for energy. In Vermont and all over this country, workers are wondering how they can afford to fill up their gas tanks. Truckers using diesel are going out of business. Senior citizens and others are worrying with dread what happens to them next wi

Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on Thursday to talk about ways to bring down sky-high prices for gasoline and oil. "Every American understands that we now have a national crisis in terms of the outrageously high price that we're paying for energy. In Vermont and all over this country, workers are wondering how they can afford to fill up their gas tanks. Truckers using diesel are going out of business. Senior citizens and others are worrying with dread what happens to them next winter when the cost of home heating oil is going through the roof. As a result of high oil and gas prices, the cost of food and other products are also rising and our entire economy, and, in fact, the world economy is suffering."

"The question that millions of people are now asking is pretty simple. They want to know what this congress can do now -- not in 10 years or in 20 years -- but now to lower the outrageously high price of oil and gas," Sanders added.

Sanders cosponsored legislation that would impose a windfall profits tax on big oil companies at a rate of 25 percent; curb unrestrained speculation that has driven up crude oil prices; outlaw gasoline price gouging, and authorize the Justice Department to bring charges of price fixing against countries that belong to the OPEC oil cartel. In addition to short-term measures to rein in rapidly rising gasoline prices, Sanders also is the chief sponsor of the most aggressive Senate legislation to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels that cause global warming.

"Dealing with the greed of the oil companies is one immediate issue that we have got to address. The second one deals with the growing reality that Wall Street investment banks, such as Goldman Sachs, and greedy hedge fund managers are driving up the price of oil in the unregulated energy futures market. There are estimates -- and a number of committees here in the Senate have heard different experts testify that the price of a barrel of oil today is 25 percent to 50 percent higher than it should be because of excessive manipulation of oil futures markets and excessive speculation. This is an issue that must be dealt with.

"Now, some people say, well, we don't know anything about this. This has never happened before. Wrong! I think most Americans understand and remember manipulation of energy markets is nothing new. It's recent history. Everybody remembers that in 2000 and 2001, Enron successfully manipulated the electricity markets on the West Coast, driving up prices by 300 percent. And during the midst of that controversy, they were saying, ‘Oh, it's not us. It's supply and demand.' It was them. And some of those guys are now in jail for the fraud they committed on the people of this country…

"Bottom line: In the short term, let's go after the oil companies. Let's deal with speculation. Long term, we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, and we must substantially increase funding for home heating assistance."

To watch excerpts of Senator Sanders' floor speech, click here. (available shortly)