Three Oregon lawmakers -- Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici -- visited Hopworks Brewery in Portland Tuesday to call attention to Wall Street speculation in commodity markets that they say is driving up the prices of aluminum, copper, gas and electricity -- and, as a result, things like a can of beer.

This speculation is in turn raising the prices of everyday products that middle-class families use, including beer cans, home improvement products that contain copper and even gas for cars.

“Nothing gets an Oregonian madder than messing with our Oregon beer, and that’s just what Wall Street is doing,” said Merkley. “We can’t let Wall Street get away with rampant speculation in commodity markets that in turn hurts our middle class families and our Oregon brewers. That’s why I’m calling on our federal regulators to rein in this speculation.  Families shouldn’t have to pay a speculation ‘tax’ at the pump, the home repair store and the beer aisle.”

“I will continue working with Senator Merkley and Congresswoman Bonamici to shine a light on runaway speculation,” said Blumenauer.  “This unregulated gambling does little to serve the broader economy while burdening American families who have already suffered at the hands of Wall Street’s reckless behavior.”

“Small businesses are an important part of our economy and our communities.  it’s alarming to learn that commodity speculation is driving up costs for our local businesses," said Bonamici. "Federal regulators need to prevent these rising costs by moving quickly to enforce the Dodd Frank reforms, and members of Congress should be fighting attempts to undermine implementation through funding cuts and piecemeal repeal. We should be doing all we can to help families and small businesses in Oregon and across the country."

In recent days and months, it has been reported by various media outlets that:

  • Banks, hedge funds, and financial investors are dominating an opaque and convoluted aluminum trading market, which beer makers have testified is raising the price of beer cans by over $3 billion;
  • Speculation in the oil market by banks and financial investors is responsible for as much as $14 for every tank of gas purchased by American drivers;
  • Banks were manipulating electricity trading markets, taking millions of dollars out of ratepayers pockets;
  • The copper market is at risk of being dominated by a bank-sponsored investment fund; and
  • Financial speculation in grain commodities is driving up the price for bread and rice for hungry families in the U.S. and around the world.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing two weeks ago, major beer manufacturers testified about how the aluminum market has drastically changed over the past few years driving aluminum prices up through a convoluted exchange and warehouse system. This has resulted in long wait times to acquire aluminum and an increased price. 

“Hopworks Urban Brewery’s investment in canning its organic beer created job growth as well as increased support for local, regional and national suppliers,” said Ettinger. “Small businesses face many challenges.  And while we certainly understand increased material costs, we are compelled to add our voice in calling out questionable market speculation driving increased prices.”

Merkley, Blumenauer and Bonamici joined together Tuesday to send a letter to financial regulators,POR calling on them to take the necessary steps to end the speculation driving up the prices for middle-class families.