A spike in gasoline prices has U.S. motorists angry and economists worried about damage to the nation’s fragile economic recovery. Petroleum price volatility also is providing ample political fodder in an election year.
During the past month, gasoline prices have risen 20 percent or more in some parts of the country, draining drivers’ wallets as they fill up their gas tanks.
“It is very disturbing. It is very disheartening when you have to go to the gas pump now,” said one motorist.
“They are really robbing your pocket,” said another.
“It is absolutely maddening,” said a third motorist.
There is sympathy from gasoline vendors like Juan Diaz in Miami, who pass along higher fuel costs to their customers.
“People here complain all the time. And that is direct money that is coming out of the economy to fill your tank,” said Diaz.
Speculators have bid up the price of oil amid tensions surrounding Iran, a major supplier of crude, and signs of a U.S. economic recovery expected to boost demand for energy. U.S. domestic oil production is up, but America’s capacity to convert crude into gasoline is not.
Republicans blame President Barack Obama, who has limited new drilling and rejected an oil pipeline from Canada. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell weighs in.
“We have now reached the point where gasoline prices are 100 per cent higher than they were when the president came to office. America is an energy-rich country. It is high time we began to exploit the resources we already have,” said McConnell.
The president accuses opponents of election-year political opportunism and a short-sighted fixation on oil drilling.
“We cannot just drill our way to lower gas prices,” said Obama.
He continues to champion greater fuel economy and alternative energy sources.
“We need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy: oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more. We need to keep developing technology that allows us to use less oil in our cars and trucks,” said Obama.
Not everyone is complaining about higher fuel prices. Car dealerships report a surge in demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.
“It has been a great week, almost double and triple in sales just over the past five days,” said Troy Pelz, a Chevrolet dealer in California.
For everyone else, a somber reality: Gasoline prices could rise even further in a few months, during the summer-vacation season.