Feature

More pain at the gas pump

The average price of gasoline across the country is now $3.59 a gallon, the highest it’s ever been at this time of year.

Gas prices hit a record seasonal high this week, all but assuring that surging fuel costs will be a key issue in the presidential race. The average price of gasoline across the country is now $3.59 a gallon, the highest it’s ever been at this time of year. Prices are likely to rise further as the summer driving season hikes demand, analysts said, and could hit $5 a gallon in high-tax states like New York and California. The White House said tensions in Iran and an unusually cold winter in Europe had caused the price of oil to surge to $106 a barrel. But Republican presidential nominees blamed President Obama for the soaring prices. “His policies have done everything they can to slow down energy production,” said Rick Santorum.

Blame Wall Street for the rising gas prices, said Kevin G. Hall in The Seattle Times. Oil speculators are “piling into the market,” betting that oil prices will surge in the summer and “torquing the Iranian fear factor into ever-higher prices.” Domestic policies aren’t a factor: Oil is plentiful, demand is weak, and the U.S. actually sold more gasoline than it used last year. What’s costing us at the pump is “rampant financial speculation.”

So what is the president doing about it? said Michael Graham in the Boston Herald. He has refused to ease market jitters by opening up offshore leases, and angered Wall Street by “cheerily vetoing” the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Perhaps he agrees with Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s 2008 statement that we need European-style gas prices to get us to trade in our gas-guzzlers for green vehicles. Well, Mr. President, “I am in the market for a trade-in. This November.”

High gas prices are actually the last thing Obama wants, said Ron Klain in Bloomberg.com. If they hit $5 a gallon, angry voters will desert him in droves. That prospect leaves him with a troubling dilemma: Does he “abandon principled positions” on the environment by expanding oil drilling and cutting gas taxes, or “suffer the political consequences” of doing nothing at all? The White House needs to come up with a plan “before the gauge says E—for economic peril.”

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