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Obama Targets Speculation On Energy

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 23, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama rolled out a proposal yesterday to curb speculation in energy markets, which his advisers said would help stabilize soaring gasoline prices.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee laid out a four-step program that would, among other things, close an "Enron loophole" that protects some trading in energy futures from federal oversight, his advisers said.

"I think everyone believes there's too much speculation in the oil markets, and a lot of it flows directly from that particular loophole," New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) said on a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign.

The three other components of the plan, as described by Obama economic adviser Jason Furman, are to ensure that U.S. energy futures cannot be traded in offshore, unregulated markets; to work toward international regulation of oil futures markets, in cooperation with like-minded countries; and to have both the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department investigate the oil markets.

As gas prices have shot above $4 per gallon, energy policy has taken center stage in the campaign. Both Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, have proposed plans to ease the crunch for consumers. McCain last week reversed his opposition to offshore oil drilling; he has also supported giving consumers a "holiday" from paying federal taxes on gasoline.

The McCain campaign said yesterday that Obama is mimicking McCain on the gas loophole.

"The truth is Barack Obama is following John McCain's lead to close a Wall Street loophole that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton," McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. "John McCain has supported bipartisan efforts to close this loophole and will work to address abuses in oil speculation."

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