Oil Prices

The Senate voted Tuesday to take up a plan to curb oil-market speculation, which economist blame for up to half of the recent run-up in prices. The legislation would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to set limits on trading in oil markets by investors and speculators. Senator Bernie Sanders wants to curb speculation, tax windfall profits, help people struggling with high energy bills and develop renewable sources of energy.

The Senate voted Tuesday to take up a plan to curb oil-market speculation, which economist blame for up to half of the recent run-up in prices. The legislation would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to set limits on trading in oil markets by investors and speculators. Senator Bernie Sanders wants to curb speculation, tax windfall profits, help people struggling with high energy bills and develop renewable sources of energy.

As a member of both the Senate environment and energy committees, here are four main proposals Sanders is working on to address the energy crisis.

First, the greed of the giant oil companies continues unabated. While Vermonters struggle to make ends meet, neither the companies nor their executives have ever had it so good. Vermonters pay over $4 a gallon for gasoline and $5 a gallon for diesel, yet at the same time Exxon-Mobil has made more profits in the last two years than any company in the history of the world. The five largest oil companies have made more than $600 billion in profits since George W. Bush has been president. Congress must take on the extremely powerful oil companies and impose a windfall profits tax limiting the obscene profits the oil giants are making and using those tax proceeds to help Americans cope with the cost of rising fuel prices.

Second, many experts believe that speculation is driving up the price of a barrel of oil way beyond what supply and demand and the decline of the dollar would justify. Hedge funds and investment banks are creating a bubble in the price of oil on the energy futures market. Analysts have suggested that the "cost" of speculation may be responsible for between 25 percent and 50 percent of the price of each barrel of oil

Third, we must make sure vulnerable Americans are protected. Many seniors, disabled persons, and low- and moderate-income families face the prospect of going cold this winter. Yet the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is funded at 23 percent less than just two years ago, even though energy prices have doubled. To address this crisis, Sanders introduced the Warm in Winter and Cool in Summer Act to double funding for the program. Thebill has widespread support, with 47 Senate cosponsors, including 11 Republicans. The Senate majority leader is trying to get it on the floor as soon as possible.

Finally, if we are serious about providing real energy solutions in the United States, we must move aggressively to break our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. We can make energy more affordable, enhance our national security, reverse global warming and, in the process, create millions of good-paying jobs.

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