White House seeks to deflect blame over rising gas prices
By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON | Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:51pm EST
(Reuters) - Under fire from Republicans over rising gasoline prices, the White House on Tuesday highlighted factors beyond its control for gains in global oil markets, as it sought to deflect blame over a potentially damaging election-year issue.
Gas prices, which rose 7 cents a gallon last week, could unsettle economic confidence at a time when the U.S. recovery appears to be gathering pace, hurting President Barack Obama as voters review his track record ahead of the November 6 ballot.
Obama, a Democrat, acknowledged the risk posed by higher gas prices as he welcomed congressional approval of a payroll tax cut extension. The White House later argued that it was unfair to single out the administration over prices at the pump.
Oil prices touched a nine-month high on Tuesday, partly because Asian consumers moved to cut oil imports from Iran following Western sanctions, and this has already had an impact on forecasts across America.
Gasoline prices advanced last week to $3.59 a gallon from around $3.32 at the start of the year, a rise that helped push up U.S. consumer inflation in January, denting household spending power.
Republicans see gas prices as a way to attack Obama's energy policies as they campaign to deny him a second White House term.
They argue the president sees rising prices as a way to alter U.S. energy consumption, while taking aim at his decision last month to reject TranCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.