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Editorial: Rising gas prices shows need to rein in speculators

Remember how we heard during the campaign that producing more domestic oil would lower gasoline prices? Forget it.

The U.S. now produces more than half the oil Americans consume. The jump in domestic production from 2011 to 2012 was reported to be the largest ever. Global demand for oil is down, as many economies are jogging at best. Yet as The Post reported Friday, gas prices in Florida have risen 45 cents per gallon since January.

Some factors are predictable, just off-schedule. Refiners switch blends when spring comes, and it’s come sooner in many parts of the country. During that switch, refineries are out of production, which means tighter gasoline supplies. Other analysts say oil prices are determined even more by the world market, minimizing new U.S. production.

Another factor is also predictable. As in 2008, when gas prices hit nearly $4.25 despite the air coming out of the economy, blame speculation by investors. Bart Chilton, a former member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, says only 30 percent of the market is made up of traders such as airlines and utilities that actually intend to take delivery of the oil. Seventy percent is investors seeking quick profits.

Congress must rein in these oil speculators, as lawmakers such as Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have proposed All the speculators produce is pain for consumers and the economy.

Randy Schultz

for The Post Editorial Board

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News

  • Thousands of people crowded into Moscow's Pushkin Square on Sunday for an unsanctioned protest against the Russian government, the biggest gathering in a wave of nationwide protests that were the most extensive show of defiance in years. Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is leading the opposition to President Vladimir Putin, was arrested while walking from a nearby subway station to the demonstration at Moscow's iconic Pushkin Square. Navalny and his Foundation for Fighting Corruption had called for the protests, which attracted hundreds or thousands in most sizeable Russian cities, from the Far East port of Vladivostok to the European heartland including St. Petersburg. The protests were the largest coordinated outpourings of dissatisfaction in Russia since the massive 2011-12 demonstrations that followed a fraud-tainted parliamentary election. Police estimated the Moscow crowd at about 7,000, but it could have been larger. The one-hectare (2.5-acre) Pushkin Square was densely crowded as were sidewalks on the adjacent Tverskaya Street. State news agency Tass cited Moscow police as saying about 200 people were arrested. Russia's beleaguered opposition is often seen as primarily a phenomenon of a Westernized urban elite, but Sunday's protests included gatherings in places far from cosmopolitan centers, such as Siberia's Chita and Barnaul. 'Navalny has united people who think the same; that people don't agree with the authorities is obvious from what is going on in the country today,' Anna Ivanova, 19, said at the Moscow demonstration. 'I am a bit scared.' Scuffles with police erupted sporadically and the arrested demonstrators included a gray-haired man whom police dragged along the pavement. Police cleared the square after about three hours and began herding demonstrators down side streets. 'It's scary, but if everyone is afraid, no one would come out onto the streets,' Yana Aksyonova, 19, said. The protests Sunday focused on reports by Navalny's group claiming that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards. The alleged luxuries include a house for raising ducks, so many placards in Sunday's protests featured mocking images of yellow duck toys. 'People are unhappy with the fact that there's been no investigation' of the corruption allegations, said Moscow protester Ivan Gronstein. In the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, police forcefully detained some demonstrators near the city's railway terminal, in one case falling down a small grassy slope as they wrestled with a detainee. News reports and social media reported demonstrations in large cities throughout the country, including Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk. At least 25 people were reported arrested in Vladivostok and 12 in Khabarovsk. Some demonstrators showed up with their faces painted green, a reference to a recent attack on Navalny in which an assailant threw a green antiseptic liquid onto his face.
  • Knoxville Zoo officials are investigating why 33 reptiles, including three endangered species, died Wednesday.  Herpetologists came to work that morning to find a majority of the 52 animals housed in one of the reptile buildings dead. They immediately evacuated the snakes and lizards, giving them oxygen and checking their heartbeats with an ultrasound device. “This is a devastating and catastrophic loss to our zoo,” Lisa New, president at the zoo, told the Knoxville News Sentinel Saturday. “These animals were important ambassadors who helped so many people understand the role snakes and lizards play in the balance of nature.” >> Read more trending news Veterinarians from the zoo as well as from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine are investigating the cause of death. “We also lost breeding programs for several endangered and threatened species,” she added. “It is especially difficult for our herpetologists who have dedicated their careers to caring for and advocating for these animals.” Three critically endangered species died; the Louisiana pine snake, the Catalina Island rattlesnake and the Aruba Island rattlesnake. The zoo’s forest cobra and albino Eastern diamondback rattlesnake also died. “We don't know exactly what occurred to cause this terrible event, but we do know it was isolated to a single building,” the zoo said in a post on Facebook. “We are continuing to investigate all the physical systems and conducting necropsies to see if we can gain any insight.”
  • The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed into a Marietta house has been identified, officials say. Robert George Westlake, 78, of Atlanta, was killed Friday evening, when a Cessna Citation I aircraft went down near a home in the 100 block of Vistawood Drive in Marietta, Cobb County police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce said. No one else was on board. This was the third time in less than six weeks that federal officials investigated a deadly plane crash in or near metro Atlanta. The 1976 plane was en route to Fulton County Airport from Cincinnati, Ohio, Pierce said. Westlake radioed that he was having mechanical troubles moments before the crash, Pierce said. RELATED: Pilot killed after plane crashes near Cobb County house Flames from the crash spread to the home, setting it on fire, Channel 2 Action News reported. The residents, Norm and Barbara Keller, were at church at the time of the crash. No injuries were reported from the fire. 'From what it looks like at this point, it came over from the top of the house and landed in the front yard,' Danell Boyd of the Cobb County fire department told Channel 2. The crash site is near Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium and Town Center at Cobb. Smoke was visible from the stadium. Witnesses said the plane nose-dived to the ground, Channel 2 reported.  'I heard a swoosh and then a clap and an explosion and I pretty much knew before I looked outside that it was a plane crash,' said Joe Thomas, a resident in the area. The neighborhood will be blocked off while National Transportation Safety Board investigators look into the crash. On Feb. 16, a plane crash at the Barrow County airport killed two people on board. On March 4, the pilot was killed when a plane went down near the Cherokee County airport.
  • A private central Florida elephant preserve offers a unique, hands-on experience to visitors. The Elephant Ranch allows tourists to get up close and personal with the majestic animals. >> Read more trending news The Two Tails Ranch located near Gainesville lets people feed, bathe and even ride the eight elephants living at the ranch. The nonprofit group All About Elephants, Inc. owns and runs the ranch with an objective of teaching people about pachyderms. It was founded in 2008 “to start educational programs for private sectors and professionals to learn about elephants.” The organizations said it has helped more than 250 elephants over the years. “Some stayed temporarily while their own exhibits were being remodeled or built. Others stayed for retirement, medical needs, behavior problems or even emergencies after hurricanes destroyed their zoos,” the company said on its website. The ranch focuses on elephants, but it houses other exotic animals, as well, including a pair of zebras, African spurthighed tortoises, red foot tortoises, an ostrich, emu and a camel. Shelby Lin Erdman contributed to this report.