So are speculators pushing the oil price up, and if so by how much? A leading American senator yesterday pressed the top futures market regulator for more information about speculation by big investment funds in crude oil futures.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) officials testified that market forces are primarily responsible for the rising price of oil, although investors may be profiting from the trend.

But Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy Committee, said the CFTC officials provided “glaringly incomplete” data to back up their testimony that speculative trading was not the chief reason behind crude oil’s rise above $135 a barrel.

Moreover, last month, a CFTC economist told the Senate Energy Committee that “there is no evidence that position changes by speculators precede price changes for crude oil futures contracts.”

If they believe this, they must be another official with their head in the sand or stuffed somewhere where the view isn’t that clear, as pretty much everyone else agrees that speculators are driving up the price of oil…