Legislating Lower Gas Prices Proves Tricky

Posted June 26, 2008 at 12:06pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said House Democrats are “moving very close to consensus” on legislation aimed at curbing speculation in energy markets, but she acknowledged that they were unable to fast-track the issue this week because they lack facts and agreement on how to tackle the matter.

With political pressure mounting to do something in response to skyrocketing gas prices, Democratic leaders had hoped to be able to tout a vote on the speculator issue before heading back to their districts for the Fourth of July recess.

But lawmakers came up against problems with House Legislative Counsel, the Congressional Budget Office and “our own gathering of ideas,” Pelosi said.

“We need a little more time,” the Speaker said.

It still remains unclear just how much market speculation has an effect on gas prices.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission says “it doesn’t have any impact,” Pelosi said. But economists say speculation could be causing as much as half of the price spike.

“So we want to get the facts straight,” the Speaker said. “Congress will review the facts.”

In addition, Democrats came forward with competing bills that addressed the issue in varying degrees.

“There are a number of proposals on the Democratic side,” Pelosi said.

She said they are taking “one step today” by introducing a speculator bill by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.). That bill has 119 sponsors, including Republicans, and would limit participation in certain energy markets.

Pelosi said she remains “confident” that Democrats will pass something in July.