The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and the New York Times all have editorials about President Obama's announcement that he wants more funding and authority for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission:
to ensure that an irresponsible few aren't able to hurt consumers by illegally manipulating or rigging the energy markets for their own gain. We can't afford a situation where speculators artificially manipulate markets by buying up oil, creating the perception of a shortage, and driving prices higher -- only to flip the oil for a quick profit. We can't afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions, while millions of American families get the short end of the stick.
Two things are worth mentioning in addition to the Journal and Bloomberg editorials, both of which make some fine points. First is that there is an oil futures market in London, too, and China announced the day after Obama's speech (good timing!) that oil futures are going to start trading this year on the Shanghai Futures Exchange. It's a global market, and stricter rules by the CFTC may just push business to London or Shanghai.
Second, speculators can speculate that prices are going to go up, but they can also speculate that prices are going to go down. The higher a price goes, the more attractive it starts to become to speculate that it will go down. That's a point that often gets lost, as speculators get blamed for "driving prices higher," but not for plunges in price.
From the Bloomberg editorial: "speculators aren't inherently bad. Quite to the contrary: They serve a vital purpose, helping create a market of buyers and sellers. Many academic researchers have found that speculators, by anticipating future price moves, can reduce volatility."
From the Journal editorial: "the CFTC, which was asleep on the MF Global watch, was nonetheless hailed by Mr. Obama Tuesday as deserving a bigger budget and more authority."