WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department announced it formed a working group to evaluate possible manipulation of oil and gasoline prices as well as the role of speculators.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a speech in Virginia this week, said it's not a lack of supply that is driving oil prices up on the commodity markets. He said speculators in the energy market are making investment decisions that cause prices to spike "significantly."
Crude oil prices are at two-year highs in part because of a general economic recovery and conflict in Libya, one of Africa's top oil producers. Gasoline prices are around $4 per gallon in the United States, up significantly over prices last year.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department was forming a working group to see if there was price manipulation in the energy sector and to evaluate commodity markets to examine the role of speculators and index traders in oil futures markets.
"We will be vigilant in monitoring the oil and gas markets for any wrongdoing so that consumers can be confident they are not paying higher prices as a result of illegal activity," he said in a statement. "If illegal conduct is responsible for increasing gas prices, state and federal authorities should take swift action."