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Pointing fingers for high oil prices

The sun sets behind two under construction offshore oil platform rigs in Port Fourchon, La.

Jeremy Hobson: To gas prices now. The national average is now $3.86 a gallon. President Obama has asked the Justice Department to look into the possibility of "fraud or manipulation" in the oil markets. But industry insiders and outside observers are firing back, blaming the government for fueling the price run-up.

Here's our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.


Bob Moon: Critics point out his Republican predecessor ordered the same kind of probe in 2005, and again in 2006, that Mr. Obama is promising now.

Barack Obama: We're going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain.

Twice, investigators found no conspiracy. And University of Maryland economist Peter Morici says there's no profiteering this time, either.

Peter Morici: The focus on fraud and speculation is scapegoating.

Morici says it's distracting from years of inconsistent energy policy, which has kept us vulnerable to oil shocks.

Meantime, industry analyst Stephen Schork argues Obama is essentially blaming the messenger -- investors who are signaling the risk of not having a clear energy strategy.

Stephen Schork: What the market would like to see is a coherent message.

Schork argues the Fed keeps flooding investors with cheap money and encouraging speculation. And low interest rates have weakened the greenback's purchasing power.

Schork: I don't even watch the oil market anymore, I watch the dollar. If the dollar's going in a certain direction, I'm confident oil's going in the opposite direction.

Address the monetary issues and Schork says flatly, "You will see oil prices lower."

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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