Limiting speculation would push prices to fundamental level, lawmakers told
By Rex Nutting & Michael Kitchen,
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The price of retail gasoline could fall by half, to around $2 a gallon, within 30 days of passage of a law to limit speculation in energy-futures markets, four energy analysts told Congress on Monday.
Testifying to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management said that the price of oil would quickly drop closer to its marginal cost of around $65 to $75 a barrel, about half the current $135.
Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Co., Edward Krapels of Energy Security Analysis and Roger Diwan of PFC Energy Consultants agreed with Masters' assessment at a hearing on proposed legislation to limit speculation in futures markets.
Krapels said that it wouldn't even take 30 days to drive prices lower, as fund managers quickly liquidated their positions in futures markets.
"Record oil prices are inflated by speculation and not justified by market fundamentals," according to Gheit. "Based on supply and demand fundamentals, crude-oil prices should not be above $60 per barrel."
Futures trading in London has not been a major factor in rising oil prices, testified Sir Bob Reid, chairman of the Chairman of London-based ICE Futures Europe. Rising prices are largely a function of fundamental supply and demand, not manipulation or speculation, he said.
"Energy speculation has become a growth industry and it is time for the government to intervene," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the full committee. "We need to consider a full range of options to counter this rapacious speculation." It was Dingell's strongest statement yet on the role of speculators.
Michael Kitchen is a copy editor for MarketWatch and is based in New York. Nate Becker contributed to this report from San Francisco