Later On

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Rising gas prices hit Obama’s poll numbers

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I read that Obama’s popularity is taking a hit because of the surge in gasoline prices. That seems fair since Obama did nothing to fight oil speculation when he had the chance. Kevin Hall reports for McClatchy on 1 March 2012:

When oil and gasoline prices soared last April, President Barack Obama announced to fanfare that the Department of Justice would lead a task force designed to root out manipulation of the oil market and gouging of consumers at the gas pump.

Since then the group has met only a handful of times and has never reported to the public.

The Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group has met only four or five times since its creation last April 21, and most of those meetings came at the time of its inception. Back then, Obama promised that the group would “root out any cases of fraud or manipulation” and noted that its scope would include the “role of traders and speculators.”

Although the task force was announced during a time when Obama’s poll numbers were sagging and he left the impression that it was investigative in nature, it’s actually a subset of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, an independent entity.

Far from being a new sheriff in town, the oil and gasoline working group assembles regulators from several agencies with overlapping jurisdiction to discuss what they’re looking into separately, see what information they can legally share and compare experiences.

An official from the Department of Justice, demanding anonymity because of a lack of authorization to speak to journalists on the matter, confirmed that the panel is acting as a clearinghouse, hoping that sharing information from one agency might push another forward.

That may prove little comfort for consumers, who are watching gasoline prices soar again and asking why.

Back on April 21, gasoline prices had climbed 30 cents a gallon to a nationwide average of $3.84 in a single month, which led to the president’s announcement. As of Thursday, gasoline prices stood at $3.73, an increase of 29 cents from a month earlier.

The Justice Department-led working group is concerned about rising prices, said Adora Andy, a spokeswoman for the department. “With the recent increase of gasoline prices, the working group is monitoring the situation, and if we find any evidence of criminal behavior or other misconduct we will respond immediately,” she told McClatchy.

McClatchy has learned that the task force is assisting the Federal Trade Commission in a probe into the practices of U.S. refiners, which turn crude oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and other products.

In a letter Dec. 5 to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz acknowledged that the probe into refiners is receiving support from task force members. Under pressure from lawmakers, the FTC began trying last spring to determine whether refiners engaged in anti-competitive practices or manipulation to drive up gasoline prices or keep them artificially high.

“In addition, the commission is conducting other, nonpublic investigations in the petroleum sector,” Leibowitz wrote to Cantwell in the letter McClatchy obtained.

First approached by McClatchy in late February, the FTC was mum about developments in the eight months since its probe into refiners was announced.

“We have no comment,” said Mitchell Katz, an agency spokesman.

The agency changed gears Thursday after Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., released a copy of a letter they sent to Leibowitz pressuring the FTC to wrap up its probe. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2012 at 8:41 am

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