The Obama administration is monitoring gasoline and diesel fuel prices in 360 U.S. cities to guard against fraud or price manipulation, according to a White House report released today.
President Barack Obama said at a press conference March 6 that he asked Attorney General Eric Holder to reconstitute a special task force to ensure that the administration “is paying attention to potential speculation in the oil markets.” The extent of the gasoline and diesel price monitoring is in today’s report, which also says the administration has made progress weaning the U.S. from foreign oil imports.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates futures markets, has also taken steps to close loopholes that allowed financial trades to evade scrutiny by trading in unregulated or overseas markets, according to the report.
Republican presidential candidates criticized Obama yesterday for environmental and permitting decisions affecting oil drilling that they say have exacerbated the spike in oil prices, and they vowed to reverse those decisions if elected.
“We’re already looking at $4 a gallon of gasoline in a lot of places and that has an impact in this economy,” Rick Santorum, who is trailing Mitt Romney in the Republican primary election campaign, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, was $3.792 a gallon as of yesterday, up almost 2 cents from the day before, according to AAA data. Prices are up about 15 percent this year, generating angst among consumers in an election year and fueling the rhetoric of Obama’s campaign critics.
“This is pure politics. All of this is the president’s fault. It lays clearly on his table,” Santorum said.
Obama is scheduled to receive the one-year progress report today called “The Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” in which six federal agencies conclude that the U.S. is on track to achieve an Obama goal of reducing oil imports by a third in a little over a decade.
This is due partly to increased U.S. oil and gas production, more efficient cars and trucks, and efficient refining operations. The U.S. imported 45 percent of its oil needs last year, down from 57 percent in 2008, according to th report.
Obama plans to speak about the report in interviews at the White House today with television stations from Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Des Moines, Orlando, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh, according to a White House schedule.