Financial meltdowns, oil speculation and politics

I don’t know about you, but I find this week’s financial turmoil and efforts to prevent a meltdown of the U.S. economy to be scary, yet somehow fascinating.

It’s hard to understand some of the complexities, but it’s clear that the government had to step in, at least on some fronts, such as preventing a run on money market mutual funds, where a lot of average people have their cash stashed right now.

I’ve been somewhat focused on the question of whether speculation in the oil futures market may be responsible for the wild swings in oil prices. It’s an important environmental issue, because high prices stir up people to demand that their government open areas to oil drilling without a lot of thought about where or when.

On Tuesday, I went onto my computer to cover a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. See the story I wrote about that hearing.

The committee includes senators with widely divergent viewpoints on the topic of oil speculation, and six witnesses were equally split about whether excessive speculation drove up prices and whether market manipulation may have taken place.

Nobody during the hearing accused anybody of illegal manipulation during the price swings this year, but almost everybody agreed that rules requiring more public disclosure could be helpful.

If you are interested in this issue, I urge you to click over to the hearing and watch it for yourself. It’s quite interesting to see the discussion. Go the the Committee’s Web Page and click on “View Archive Webcast.”

I would be interested to know if anyone received the e-mail notification I sent Tuesday morning in time to watch the hearing live (for those who have signed up for e-mail notification). If you don’t wish to comment on this entry, please send me an e-mail to

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