Presidential Hopefuls Blame Gas Prices On Obama Gasoline prices are up nearly 20 cents from a month ago. High prices at the pumps could turn into a liability for President Obama — if Republicans have their way. The White House insists its policies are not to blame.

Presidential Hopefuls Blame Gas Prices On Obama

Presidential Hopefuls Blame Gas Prices On Obama

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Gasoline prices are up nearly 20 cents from a month ago. High prices at the pumps could turn into a liability for President Obama — if Republicans have their way. The White House insists its policies are not to blame.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Let's remember a little recent history. Back in 2008, Republicans were facing a difficult election - then a spike in gas prices gave them an issue, and for a time hope of victory as they advocated more oil drilling. Now gas prices are rising again.

According to AAA, the average price of a gallon jumped to $3.57 yesterday. That's up nearly 20 cents from a month ago and 40 cents higher than this time last year.

Republicans are losing no time in identifying who they blame. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: No politician can afford to ignore a spike in gas prices, even if there's not much they can do about it. President Obama will give a speech on energy policy in Florida tomorrow.

White House spokesman Jay Carney reassured the driving public, Mr. Obama feels your pain.

JAY CARNEY: The president is very aware of the impact that the global price of oil has on families. And this is not something that this administration rediscovers every spring, as some politicians do.

HORSLEY: Even as he celebrated passage of a payroll tax cut, and the extra $40 it will leave in the typical paycheck, Mr. Obama knows some of that money is already spoken for.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That $40 helps to pay the rent, the groceries, the rising cost of gas, which is on a lot of people's minds right now.

HORSLEY: It's certainly on the minds of GOP presidential candidates, who hope to use the pain at the pump as a political weapon against Mr. Obama.

Here's Newt Gingrich yesterday on CBS.

NEWT GINGRICH: The high price of gasoline is a direct result of Obama. We paid $1.13 a gallon when I was speaker. We paid $1.89 a gallon when he became president.

HORSLEY: Rick Santorum also faulted the president for high gas prices during a speech to the Detroit Economic Club.

RICK SANTORUM: We have a president who's doing everything he can to see the oil and gas, coal in this country, as a liability, not an asset.

HORSLEY: But the numbers tell a different story. The number of drilling rigs in U.S. oil fields has quadrupled while Mr. Obama's been in office. And last year they pumped the most oil in eight years.

One again, here's White House spokesman Carney.

CARNEY: Oil production in the United States has increased every year that this president has been in office.

HORSLEY: To be sure, oil producers argue their production boom has come despite the administration's policies, not because of them. But either way, all that extra oil flowing from U.S. wells has done little to check the rising prices on the global market. That suggests we're not going to drill our way to cheaper gasoline.

Even the controversial Keystone oil pipeline from Canada, which Mr. Obama nixed, wouldn't have delivered any oil for years.

Analyst Phil Flynn of PFG Best Research in Chicago says if you want to blame somebody for today's high gas prices, you've got to look beyond the U.S. energy policy.

PHIL FLYNN: I have to agree with the White House. I mean what we're seeing in the price of gasoline mainly is being driven by what's happening in Iran and in the surrounding area.

HORSLEY: The administration says in the short-term there's no magic bullet to bring those prices down.

Over the longer term, the administration hopes to see continued increases in domestic oil production, as well as alternative sources of energy. And last year Mr. Obama inked a deal with the major automakers to nearly double fuel efficiency by 2025. Santorum grumbles that will mean less choice in big family vehicles. But Carney says it'll make future price spikes only half as painful.

CARNEY: We have to act on the things we can control to protect ourselves from the things that we can't.

HORSLEY: That's advice Mr. Obama is also following during these unpredictable months between now and the November election.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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