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About Those Evil Speculators...

So the Senate held a test vote yesterday on a bill to regulate "speculation" in the oil futures market, and it passed 95-0. Now, it seems unlikely this bill's going anywhere, seeing as how Republicans want to tack on a slew of drilling amendments that will no doubt bog the whole thing down—in fact, I'd give even odds that Congress doesn't pass any new energy bill before the August recess. Still, anti-speculator sentiment is quickly becoming as popular as the belief that the United States can drill its way out of high oil prices. 

The irony is that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission—the very same agency that would be empowered to restrict futures trading under the Senate bill—has concluded in an interim federal task force report, co-written with six other agencies, that investors aren't responsible for the recent spike in oil prices. The run-up, rather, has been "largely due" to boring old fundamentals: more people are burning oil and energy supplies are growing at a sluggish pace. One notable finding: Many speculative investors have been changing their position after prices move—not before—suggesting that they're "responding to new information—just as you'd expect in an efficiently operating market," rather than driving the price.

--Bradford Plumer