- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

President Bush, top administration officials and congressional Republicans on Tuesday renewed their energy offensive, accusing Democrats of obstructing increased domestic production and criticizing the notion that market speculation is driving prices up.

David McCormick, undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs, not only dismissed the idea that speculation is raising prices, but said that in the long term, speculation helps the market.

“Short-term investors can move prices, sometimes in a good way … and sometimes in a bad way,” Mr. McCormick said, during a speech at a downtown D.C. think tank.

“However, by creating a large and liquid market, they also help reduce volatility, and over the longer haul, short-term investors do not systematically move prices away from the levels dictated by the fundamentals of supply and demand,” he said.

Democrats charge speculation is a major factor in higher prices, and have proposed legislation to eliminate futures bets by traders who never actually take physical possession of the oil commodities. Such a move would lower the number of traders who are eligible to buy futures shares.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, heralded second-quarter profits released Tuesday by BP Global, a leading energy company, which jumped up 28 percent over last year, to more than $9 billion, as evidence that the Republican Party is protecting the oil industry.

“On the day when big oil’s profits soared again, Bush-McCain Republicans continue to put big oil’s bottom line and Wall Street traders ahead of the interests of the American people,” Mr. Reid said.

The debate took place under the shadow of a looming Friday deadline, when Congress is expected to leave town for a monthlong summer recess.

The president, speaking at an electric company in Euclid, Ohio, said that Democrats should allow a vote to increase domestic oil production.

Mr. Bush did not call on Democrats to hold a vote before they leave Washington, but White House press secretary Dana Perino made such a demand earlier in the day.

“The Democratically controlled Congress shouldn’t keep putting off our future energy needs by systematically and, we would say, un-democratically blocking votes on real measures to address the root causes of the problem of high energy prices,” Mrs. Perino said.

“Republicans, and many Democrats, should be allowed to at least have a vote on this before they leave on this next recess,” she said.

Republicans, however, have protested Mr. Reid’s refusal to bring up the full range of domestic production bills by in turn blocking Democratic bills, including measures on Friday and Monday that would have cracked down on oil speculators.

Mr. Reid had said he wanted to pass a speculation bill before any other energy legislation, though Tuesday he was on to measures on solar and wind energy.

Republicans, who are facing what some say could be a disastrous fall election, think that the drilling issue, however, is a winner for them regardless of the vote outcome, citing polling that shows increasing public support for exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The president will speak again on the topic Wednesday at the White House after meeting with his Cabinet.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Democrats should not adjourn for August recess without voting on whether to produce “more American-made oil and gas.”

But Mr. Boehner also expanded the pro-drilling message into the presidential campaign, linking Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to Democratic Party leaders who are fighting with Republicans over whether or not to allow more drilling.

Mr. Boehner said that Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi are beholden to “the radical environmental community, who want no part in oil and gas drilling.”

Mrs. Pelosi’s defense of her own opposition to Republican drilling proposals - she told the Politico she is “trying to save the planet” - was featured prominently on the Drudge Report and cable-TV news Tuesday.

Senate Democratic leaders on Friday are expected to informally adjourn for a monthlong summer recess, while sending one legislator a day to quickly gavel a session open and closed, in order to prevent the president from making any recess appointments.

cSean Lengell contributed to this report.

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