Strimling blames speculation for high oil prices

Congressional District One candidate Ethan Strimling cast blame for a problem we’re all too familiar with – skyrocketing oil and gas prices -- in a news conference at his Forest Avenue office this afternoon. He also took another swing at his main primary opponent, Chellie Pingree.

Strimling, citing economic experts, blamed “out of control” unregulated speculation, through which hedge fund managers can buy and sell contracts for crude oil, for high prices.

“Plain greed is driving up the cost of gasoline,” he said.

Because of a loophole in domestic trading laws, energy markets are exempt from oversight by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – the so-called “Enron Loophole” (named for the corporate sleazers who shoehorned it into federal law in 2000). This leads to unfettered inflation of prices, even as demand for oil and gas remains constant.

Anyway, if international oil markets and domestic commodity trading legislation don’t make much sense to you, join the club. While Strimling himself vowed to do his part to close the loophole if he’s elected (there’s a bill on the table right now that would do just that, spearheaded in part by Maine Senator Olympia Snowe), one gets the sense that his primary (excuse the pun) target in all this is Pingree. Her campaign, Strimling pointed out, has accepted large donations from employees of the Connecticut-based Paloma Partners Management Company – a firm that belongs to the Managed Funds Association, which, in turn, is partly responsible for keeping the Enron Loophole in place. Oh, and controversial donor Donald Sussman works there too. Whew. Thank goodness we only have a few more weeks left of this!   

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