Hochul Fights to Keep Gas Prices Down in WNY

June 17, 2011 Updated Jun 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM EDT

By WKBW News

...

Hochul Fights to Keep Gas Prices Down in WNY

June 17, 2011 Updated Jun 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM EDT

Washington D.C. (WKBW release) -- New York Congresswoman Kathy Hochul on Friday stood up for Western New Yorkers and opposed the Republican bill that could hike gas prices back to record highs.

The Agriculture Appropriations Bill before the House on Friday would slash the budget for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – the agency tasked with policing price manipulation in oil markets – by $30 million from last year’s budget, and by $136 million or 44% from the President’s request.

“As Western New Yorkers, we have unfortunately become accustomed to paying record prices for gas at the pumps, even paying the highest in the nation back in 2008,” said Hochul. “But today’s bill to hack funding from the CFTC would essentially get rid of the sheriffs keeping an eye on our consumers. We’d send them packing and the speculators who drive up our gas prices, would run wild shooting up the town.”

A full version of Hochul’s remarks given on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives are below:

"Mr. Speaker, I am here today as someone who recently stood before the voters. And I can tell you that the constituents I represent are fed up with the inability to control soaring gas prices in this country.

"In diners and the small businesses and, certainly, at the stations while pumping gas, you can feel the incredible anger and helplessness. That is why I feel compelled to stand here today to offer this final amendment to restore critical funding to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

"Now, I suspect that most Americans are not familiar with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – the CFTC. Think of it this way – these are the sheriffs in town who protect us from the Wild West of oil speculators. Now if the Republicans had their way, they would send the sheriffs packing and let the speculators who drive up our gas prices, run wild just shooting up the town.

"Those who support my motion see it differently. We like law and order. We like it when people play by the rules. And we like having Sheriffs around to make sure that someone is keeping an eye on our consumers.

"The Agriculture Appropriations Bill under debate right now would hurt every – single – person – we represent. Among the many problems with this bill is the fact that it cedes regulation of the oil market back to Big Oil.

"Inflated oil prices are hampering our country’s economic recovery. The price of oil is around $100 a barrel and Americans across the country are paying an average of $3.70 a gallon, but not in my district.

"In my district, they’re paying $3.90, $4.00, or even $4.10 at some gas stations just to fill up. And that’s just for regular. The price of diesel is hurting my farmers who pay a quarter more for every gallon

"The worst part is that none of this is new for us in Western New York. Over the years, the Buffalo Region of my district has had the highest gas prices in the nation, according to AAA.

"Not high gas prices… the highest. Even today, the Village of Arcade – a small farming community in Wyoming County, is listed as having among the highest prices in the nation.

"What is so disturbing is that when our area was just starting to climb out of the recession, the price of gas skyrocketed, sending our recovery efforts backwards.

"For all the Members who are concerned about the deficit, I hope you will support this amendment. The high cost of oil is not only bankrupting American families and businesses, but it is also bankrupting our county.

"I know that the people back home in my district are fed up with the deficit, they’re fed up with the poor economy and they’re fed up with high gas prices. They want to know what we are going to do to solve these problems. The answer does not lie in firing the regulators who watch and control the speculators, who make up nearly 70% of the market.

"Recently, two traders and three firms were charged by the CFTC with price manipulation for allegedly trying to hoard crude oil and score a quick $50 million. Additionally, the CFTC charged oil speculators for artificially driving up the price of oil in 2008, when oil reached a record $147 a barrel on a speculative bubble that helped crash the global economy. And for the record, in 2008, the Buffalo region had the highest gas prices in the country.

"Even the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, blamed speculators for the high prices, saying just last month that oil should be trading for around $60 to $70 if governed by supply and demand.

"Recently, the world’s largest commodities trader, Goldman Sachs told their clients that speculators had artificially driven up the price of oil by as much as $27 higher than supply and demand would dictate.

"The bottom line is this – how can we justify slashing the budget for the only agency that can crack down on excessive speculation?

"The Agriculture Appropriations Bill would slash the budget for the CFTC – the agency tasked with policing price manipulation in oil markets – by $30 million from last year’s budget, and it would cut it by 44 percent or $136 million from the President’s request; essentially firing all the sheriffs, just when Jesse James arrives in town.

"I don’t know about anyone else, but when I return home this weekend, I sure would not want to explain support for a bill that would in effect make it easier for Big Oil companies and speculators to take advantage of our consumers.

"The choice is simple – does this Congress stand with the consumers, our families, small businesses and farmers, or does it stand with the speculators?

"I know where my constituents expect me to stand.

"I yield back the balance of my time."