Ever since gasoline prices began climbing, along with the temperature of American motorists, politicians have offered their own analyses of what’s driving up the price at the pump.
To sum it up for the people vying for the Quad-Cities’ two congressional posts this year, the reason more money is flowing into your gas tank are: The lack of a long-term energy strategy, excessive profits for oil companies, speculators and the shortage of oil and gas production in the U.S.
It’s hard to tell how much fuel prices will figure into an election that’s still nine months away. After all, some energy analysts predicted last spring that gas could top $6 per gallon, only to see it fail to materialize. Still, if the price of gasoline exceeds $4 as some analysts predict, it may figure prominently in the voting booth.
The fuel gauge at AAA showed the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the Iowa Quad-Cities was $3.58 Tuesday, up 40 cents from a month ago. On the Illinois side of the river, it was $3.74, up 34 cents.
Lawmakers say they’re hearing about it everywhere.
“I hear it from folks at Hy-Vee and where I fill up my own tank,” said Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.
Republicans have generally complained that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to speed production of oil and gas in the U.S., and local Republicans are taking that approach, too.
John Archer, who is seeking the GOP nomination to run against Loebsack in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, seized on a bill passed by the House of Representatives last week aimed at encouraging oil shale development. Archer called it a “common-sense solution” and faulted Loebsack for voting against it.
“The market would have seen we’re moving in the right direction,” he said of efforts to boost supply. “It might not affect prices immediately, but these policies should have been in place years ago.”
Democrats said the technology to develop oil shales are at least a decade away and questions remain about the effect on the environment.
On his Facebook page last week, meanwhile, Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., drew attention to three bills the Republican-controlled House passed last year that would speed up drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and require increased oil and gas lease sales.
“We’ve cut off putting more supply out there, and we’re seeing the effects,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
The GOP has frequently noted the price of gas was just $1.83 when President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
That was in the midst of the economic decline. Analysts also say fears about the situation over Iran has contributed to the recent rise in prices.
Democrats have reacted to the price spikes. The party’s political arm in the House last week blamed speculators for the increase and faulted Schilling for voting against a measure in 2011 that would have given more money to regulators to investigate it.
Critics said there was nothing preventing the administration from doing that without the extra funds.
Democrats also are trying to dash the idea that drilling alone will resolve the problem and that production under Obama is up.
Loebsack said he’s backed offshore drilling in the past, but he added: “There’s already opportunities out there at this point that are not being taken advantage of.”
In the short term, he said, there should be a ban on the export of Alaskan oil outside the United States and the government should give “some serious thought” to releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He also says he supports “sending a signal” to the energy markets that the government will crack down on gouging.
Democratic challengers in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District take a similar approach.
Cheri Bustos, a former Quad-City Times reporter and hospital executive, said the solution to high prices won’t come overnight but “what we shouldn’t have is special government handouts to oil companies while they’re making record profits.”
She and Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp, another Democratic hopeful, both said they back the Keystone XL pipeline project, which is opposed by environmentalists.
Gaulrapp added it was a mistake for the president to order a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I think we overreacted,” he said.
Greg Aguilar, an official at Augustana College, also suggested tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and considering boosts in domestic production, but not for export. He, like others, said the country must develop new sources of American energy and become less dependent on foreign oil.
Dan Dolan, a Republican who also is seeking the 2nd District GOP nomination in Iowa, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.