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cover9WASHINGTON- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and 14 other U.S. senators have introduced legislation to give federal regulators emergency power to stop speculators from taking advantage of turmoil in Iraq to drive up oil prices and make motorists pay more for gasoline.

“I am getting tired of big oil companies and Wall Street speculators using Iraq as an excuse to pump up oil and gas prices,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate energy committee. “The fact is that high gasoline prices have less to do with supply and demand and more to do with Wall Street speculators driving prices up in the energy futures market.”

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

Wall Street has pushed up the price of crude oil by more than 5 percent since June 12, when militants attacked and took control of several Iraqi cities. In the longer term, oil prices rose 53 percent since 2009.

While developments in Iraq have had no impact on the supply of gasoline in the United States today, gas is more expensive now than it’s been in six years at the beginning of the summer driving season, according to AAA.  The increase has occurred despite the fact that the supply of gasoline is 4.3 percent higher and demand is 1 percent lower than it was five years ago, when national gas prices averaged $2.69 a gallon.

Sanders’ legislation would force the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulates oil markets, to use to use all of its authority, including its emergency powers, to eliminate excessive oil speculation.

Nationwide, the average price of a gallon of gas yesterday was $3.70-a-gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration, a buck more than five years ago.