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Opinion
Javier Blas

Uncle Sam Wants to Be an Oil Trader. That’s a Bad Idea

Precedent shows that American lawmakers are clueless about the market.

Oil tankers anchored in the Pacific Ocean off Long Beach, California.

Oil tankers anchored in the Pacific Ocean off Long Beach, California.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Hello and welcome to Elements, our daily energy and commodities newsletter. Bloomberg Opinion’s Javier Blas explains how some US lawmakers want the government to become an oil trader — and why that wouldn’t be such a good idea. If you haven’t yet signed up to get Elements direct into your inbox, you can do that here.

In the minds of some American politicians, making money in the oil market is as simple as “buy low and sell high.” Easy-peasy. One wonders why nobody thought of that sooner.

Congressman Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is so sure about the trading strategy he introduced a bill titled “The Buy Low and Sell High Act” to turn a portion of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve into some sort of oil hedge fund run by the American government.