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Local business hurt by gas prices seek help from Congress

Paula Wissel/KPLU
Doug McClure, owner of Zeeks Pizza, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, and Warren Aakervik, owner of Ballard Oil, at a news conference April 18, 2011.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell say Wall Street speculation in the oil and gas market is directly affecting small business in Washington. 

At a news conference held at Local Roots Organic in Seattle they were joined by several business owners who said high gas prices are taking a toll on their bottom line.

Ballard Oil Company has been in business since 1937. They company supplies marine diesel for the Seattle-based fishing fleet. Owner Warren Aakervik is on a first name basis with most of the fisherman who ply the North Pacific waters.

“I keep a list of all the boats that are in town that I know are going to want fuel. When it looks like prices are down, I tell them to get down here and fill up," he said.

Likewise, Aakervik lets them know when it looks like prices might go down even further and they should hold off.  But, with the current volatility, he says it's been impossible to monitor the price.

“A month ago, it went up 11 cents a gallon in one day and we’ve seen decreases of 24 cents in one day," he said.

What's  happening, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell, is speculators are now manipulating the commodities markets to make a quick buck.

 "I would say what happened with the housing market  and what’s happening with the oil markets is the lack of proper policing and oversight. Just because you can cook up the next exotic instrument doesn’t mean at we should allow that," he said.

Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray are frustrated that new regulation passed by Congress has not been implemented by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. They hope that hearing from businesses on Main Street will prompt the Commission to act.

Also at the news conference in Seattle, Zeeks Pizza owners Tom Vial and Doug McClure said high gas prices are hurting them because so much of their business is pizza delivery.

"We used to deliver pizzas on skateboards and we could go back to that," Vial joked.


Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

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