If you thought oil speculators as the reason behind the historic gas prices spikes of this summer was debunked, think again. From ’07 to when the price of oil collapsed, supply increased and demand dropped. According to basic economic theory, this should’ve meant the price went down. But all of a sudden an influx of capital, an infusion that brought the total at play from $13 billion to $300 billion, brought to market by large investment bankers, exploiting de-regulation and trading in black box private exchanges made possible by Enron, drove the price of oil from $69 to almost $150. A new 60 Minutes report explores the issue. Video inside.
Here is a transcript.
Here’s the money-graph:
“Who was responsible for deregulating the oil future market?” Kroft asked Michael Greenberger.
“You’d have to say Enron,” he replied. “This was something they desperately wanted, and they got.”
Asked why they wanted a deregulated market in oil futures, Greenberger said, “Because they wanted to establish their own little energy futures exchange through computerized trading. They knew that if they could get this trading engine established without the controls that had been placed on speculators, they would have the ability to drive the price of energy products in any way they wanted to take it.”
“When Enron failed, we learned that Enron, and its conspirators who used their trading engine, were able to drive the price of electricity up, some say, by as much as 300 percent on the West Coast,” he added.
“Is the same thing going on right now in the oil business?” Kroft asked.
“Every Enron trader, who knew how to do these manipulations, became the most valuable employee on Wall Street,” Greenberger said.
But some of them may now be looking for work. The oil bubble began to deflate early last fall when Congress threatened new regulations and federal agencies announced they were beginning major investigations. It finally popped with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of AIG, who were both heavily invested in the oil markets. With hedge funds and investment houses facing margin calls, the speculators headed for the exits.
“From July 15th until the end of November, roughly $70 billion came out of commodities futures from these index funds,” Masters explained. “In fact, gasoline demand went down by roughly five percent over that same period of time. Yet the price of crude oil dropped more than $100 a barrel. It dropped 75 percent.”
Asked how he explains that, Masters said, “By looking at investors, that’s the only way you can explain it.”