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Gasoline Prices Rise 34 Straight Days: Are Speculators to Blame? If Not, Who Is?

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Published : February 22nd, 2013
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Category : Opinions and Analysis

Given a two-day plunge in crude futures, gasoline prices may have hit a temporary peak.

Nonetheless, consumers feel the pinch as pump prices have risen 34 straight days. For only the fifth time in history Gas prices topped $4 a gallon in District of Columbia.

Nationwide, the price of a gallon of regular gasoline climbed to $3.78 a gallon, up 47 cents in the past month, the AAA said.

In parts of California, Gasoline Prices Topped $5.00 on February 5. CNN Money has an interactive Gas Price map to check prices in your state.

Republicans Cry Foul

Yahoo!News reports Politicians Cry Foul Over High Gas Prices, Urge Action on Keystone XL

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., posted a "Keystone Clock " on his House Energy Committee's website Wednesday. The chairman states more than 1,615 days have passed since TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline proposal sought approval. Joining Upton's call to build the pipeline is Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio. Executives at TransCanada have tried a different tactic to try to get approval from the Obama administration by claiming the pipeline won't affect global warming.

The tug of war between economics and environmentalism is escalating thanks to 34 straight days of rising gasoline prices.

Boehner posted a "Running on Empty " graphic Tuesday. The Speaker of the House complains gas prices have "soared $0.43 since Jan. 17" before remarking with his own Keystone clock, "How long will Americans have to wait?"

Boehner cites several sources, including nine Democratic senators, who want Obama to approve the project quickly. The pipeline may not see a decision until mid-June. Around 20,000 jobs and nearly a million barrels of oil a day are at stake for American oil companies.
Speculators to Blame?

The Salt Lake Tribune reports Spike in gasoline prices points to speculators

"Like locusts ravaging fertile crops, gasoline prices are soaring again and eating away at the purchasing power of ordinary Americans. And again, financial speculators appear to be a big part of the story."

Refinery Closures

In Recovery Killer? Gas Prices Barrel Toward $4 a Gallon CNN notes refinery closures.
Five dollar a gallon gas "is a real possibility" said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. "This is partly being driven by the lost refinery capacity of about one million barrels per day...that's a lot."

Kilduff cited Hess's (HES) closure of a key refinery hub in Port Reading, New Jersey in January as a major factor that has sent gas on a tear. "Prices haven't looked back since," he said.

"It's one of about eight refineries that have announced closure. Now the East Coast is heavily reliant on [gas] imports when it used to be self-sufficient," Kilduff stated.
Speculation Nonsense

Refinery closures are one part of the puzzle. If speculators have driven up the price of oil (and that is debatable) it's not the speculators who are to blame, but rather the Fed.

By providing massive liquidity and negative real interest rates, the Fed encouraged speculation in the stock market, in junk bonds, and in commodities.

I believe there is a bubble in all of those areas. The Fed's intent was not to foster bubbles per se, but rather to stimulate housing and spur job creation. On the job creation front, the fed failed miserably, and bloated its balance sheet to over $3 trillion dollars in doing so.

Fed policies have destroyed those on fixed income for the benefit of the banks and wealthy, as I wrote on Wednesday in Reader Asks Me to Prove "Inflation Benefits the Wealthy" (At the Expense of Everyone Else).

The Bernanke Fed is so out of line that the House Subcommittee on Economic Growth Demands Answers From Bernanke on Fed's Exit Strategy; Fed Must Reply by March 5

Yet the media blames those evil speculators. Get real.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. He writes a global economics blog which has commentary 5-7 times a week. He also writes for the Daily Reckoning, Whiskey & Gunpowder, and has over 80 magazine and book cover credits. Visit http://www.sitkapacific.com
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