Energy prices for crude oil, heating oil, unleaded gasoline, and natural gas have risen substantially since 2002, generating questions about the reasons for the increase. Some observers believe that the higher energy prices were solely due to supply and demand fundamentals while others believe that increased futures trading activity may also have contributed to higher prices. This testimony highlights GAO's preliminary findings related to (1) trends and patterns in the futures and physical energy markets and the effect of these trends on energy prices and (2) the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's (CFTC) regulatory and enforcement authority over derivatives markets. GAO analyzed futures and large trader reporting data; trading data obtained from the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for crude oil, heating oil, unleaded gasoline, and natural gas; and various other sources of energy-related data. GAO also analyzed relevant academic and other studies on the subject and interviewed market participants, experts, and officials at relevant federal agencies.
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