By Vicki Needham - 03/04/12 11:25 PM EST
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.) is pressing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to help ease rising gasoline prices.
In a letter sent to CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler on Sunday, Casey called on the agency to implement a rule that would limit speculation in the oil market and is two years in the making.
“Consumers shouldn’t be forced to pay higher prices at the pump because of speculative bets on Wall Street,” Casey said.
The Dodd-Frank law gives the CFTC the authority to limit the ability of speculators on Wall Street to inflate the price of oil by putting in place position limits. The limits set the maximum amount of the oil market that a single speculator could control.
“Implementing the CFTC’s position limits rule is an important first step in curbing the role that oil speculation has played in driving up prices," he wrote. "Increased oil prices pose a serious threat to the ongoing recovery of our economy."
Experts argue that federal policymakers have few options to lower gas prices in the short term. Gas prices are linked closely to oil prices, which are set on global markets. Even a dramatic expansion of domestic oil-and-gas leasing would have little short-term effect on gas prices, they say.
Republicans though have continued to hammer the Obama administration over the rising prices at the pump, calling for increased domestic drilling and for the administration to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
The White House, though, has said there are no quick fixes to rising costs and that the president is doing all he can to reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil by expanding domestic production and investing in renewable energy sources.
Obama has accused Republicans of exploiting rising gas prices for political gain. “Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news so enthusiastically,” he said.
But the administration has also felt pressure from Democrats worried about the political cost of rising gas prices in an election year. Some senior Democratic lawmakers have called on the president to consider releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to ease prices.
—This story has been updated at 7:29 p.m.