In response to record oil and gasoline prices, the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved 402 to 19 legislation directing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use its authority, including the agency's emergency powers, to "curb immediately" the role of excessive speculation in energy futures markets.
Hedge funds, pension funds and other speculators have been blamed by many lawmakers and some energy experts for doubling the price for crude oil in the last year.
The Bush administration disagrees, saying high prices are the result of world oil production not being able to keep up with growing global fuel demand.
The House legislation requires the CFTC to act against "sudden or unreasonable fluctuations" in energy futures prices and other trading activities that "prevent the market from accurately reflecting the forces of supply and demand for energy commodities." The Senate must still vote on the measure.
"The American people should not be punished at the pump for the actions of oil speculators," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.