Rapidly escalating oil and gas prices have drawn the attention of political leaders, including President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. While the government can do little to affect prices, it can monitor the activities of traders and speculators to ensure that no laws are being broken. Attorney General Holder was clear that there is no current evidence of fraud or illegal activity, and that the move was preemptory in nature only.
As quoted by CNN, Holder said, “Rapidly rising gasoline prices are pinching the pockets of consumers across the country. We will be vigilant in monitoring the oil and gas markets for any wrongdoing so that consumers can be confident they are not paying higher prices as a result of illegal activity.”
The task force will be composed of personnel from the Justice Department, the National Association of State Attorneys General, the Energy Department, the Treasury Department and multiple financial regulatory agencies. Findings will be reported up through an existing Financial Fraud Task Force, which in turn reports directly to the attorney general.
Unless the group finds evidence of fraud or manipulation in the oil and gas markets, or other violations of state and federal laws, don’t expect the task force to have an impact on gasoline prices. As Holder was quick to point out, “It is also clear that there are lawful reasons for increases in gas prices, given supply and demand.”