Nocera on Obama Urging Congress to Crack Down on Oil Speculation

President Barack Obama wants tackle the nation's high gas prices by cracking down on oil speculators and increasing oversight of the oil markets. WNYC checked in with New York Times columnist and station contributor Joe Nocera to get his take.

Speaking at the White House Tuesday morning, the president said market manipulators are profiting while working Americans suffer. 

“We can't afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage and driving prices higher, only to flip the oil for a quick profit,” he said.

The government reports that a gallon of gas averages about $3.92 nationwide. In some parts of the country, it's well over $4 a gallon.

The president's proposals focus on three areas: increasing penalties from $1 million to $10 million for traders who manipulate the market, requiring traders to put up more money when trading oil, and substantially increasing funding for the market regulators.

"In the short term, the honest truth is that the president is doing what any president would do – Republican or Democrat,” said Joe Nocera, columnist for the New York Times and a contributor to WNYC. “Because when oil prices go up, the boogey man is the speculator.”

Going after speculators is “almost their only course because there is no other action they can take that will actually make a difference for the price of oil,” he added.