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Unhappy public not sure who to blame for high gas

By John Rogers

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:30 a.m. HST, Mar 22, 2012


LOS ANGELES >> Families canceling vacations. Fishermen watching their profits burn up along with their boats' gasoline. Drivers buying only a few gallons of gas at a time because they can't afford to fill the tank.

From all corners of the country, Americans are irritated these days by record-high fuel prices that have soared above $4 a gallon in some states and could top $5 by summer. And the cost is becoming a political issue just as the presidential campaign kicks into high gear.

Some blame President Barack Obama. Some just cite "the government," while others believe it's the work of big, greedy oil companies. No matter who is responsible, almost everyone seems to want the government to do something, even if people aren't sure what, exactly, it should or can do.

A Gallup poll this month found 85 percent of U.S. adults believe the president and Congress "should take immediate actions to try to control the rising price of gas." An Associated Press-GfK poll last month showed 71 percent believe gas prices are a "very" or "extremely" important matter.

Chris Kaufman, who spends $120 a week on gas to travel the 60 miles between his two jobs, at the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and at a hotel in Vermillion, S.D., blames the price spike on threats from Iran to cut off oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.

"I think the candidates running for president need to take a good hard look at that and determine what their foreign policy is going to be for countries that threaten to do that," he said. "It's going to affect every single citizen in the United States."

Still, he believes the president has little control over gas prices, adding that it is commodities traders who really dictate prices.

Trucker Cory Nissen of Ruther Glen, Va., agrees.

"The president is nothing but a fall guy," Nissen said as he took a break from his rig at a stop in Wilton, N.Y., earlier this week.

Nissen, who is paid by the mile, said he has seen his paychecks shrink because his employer has cut back delivery runs in reaction to the rising cost of fuel. "It needs to change and change quick," he said. "I got bills I got to pay, and half the time I can't pay them."

On the presidential campaign trail, Mitt Romney called on Obama last weekend to fire his energy secretary, interior secretary and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, dubbing them "the gas-hike trio." Fellow Republican Newt Gingrich promised to roll the price of gas back to $2.50 a gallon if he is elected.

Obama mocked Gingrich's promise, saying, "They start acting like they've got a magic wand and will give you cheap gas forever if you elect us."

Amy Lis of Buffalo, N.Y., and her boyfriend canceled their vacation to Florida this spring in favor of a three-hour drive to Cleveland for an overnight stay and a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even that trip will cost more than $100 in gas.

"It's more than our hotel," she said as she filled up her boyfriend's Ford Ranger pickup.

In truth, there is not a lot the president and Congress can do in the short term to push down gasoline prices. They are tied to oil prices, which have climbed in recent months, pushed by increased consumption from developing nations in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and by concerns about supply disruptions in Iran and elsewhere.

Mike Siroub, who has operated a Union Oil station in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia for 25 years, said customers who used to fill up their tanks now put in just $10 or $20 at a time, telling him that that's all they can afford and that they are driving less or using more fuel-efficient cars.

He himself has joined them.

"I used to have a car with a big V-8 engine," he said. "I traded it for a four-cylinder Toyota Camry."

Among the things the government can do to bring relief to drivers is reduce gasoline taxes or push to get more fuel-efficient cars on the road. The first new fuel standards since 1990 are just now going into effect, and the U.S. auto fleet is more efficient than ever.

People are still feeling the pain.

"When I go out to change the prices, they honk their horns and yell at me," said Siroub whose station's cheapest grade of gas, regular unleaded, was selling for $4.44 a gallon earlier this week. "The other day one person even gave me the finger."

In New York City, some cab drivers say the high cost of gas is prompting them to race through the streets of Manhattan even more recklessly than usual to pick up more passengers during a shift.

"When the gas is up, the money you make is going down," said Less Sylla, who paid $4.17 a gallon earlier this week. "You see a lot of drivers, they're driving, boom-boom-boom, because the lease is too high and it's working on their minds. So that's why they go like that, and it causes a lot of accidents."

Sylla, who said he will vote for Obama, blames greedy oil companies.

In Anchorage, Alaska, general contractor W.M. Lewis said he has had to raises his prices to keep his half-dozen trucks running. "It affects your bottom-line pricing," he said as he put $90.13 worth of gas, at $4.25 a gallon, into one of those trucks.

Milton Walker Jr., whose Louisiana tour company takes vacationers on boat rides through the alligator-infested swamps, said he raised prices last year because of the increased cost of fuel and will do it again if gas hits $5 a gallon. He blames the Federal Reserve, saying it hasn't kept inflation in check.

"I don't think it matters who's president," he said.

Shrimpers in Louisiana and lobstermen in Maine complain that high fuel prices are cutting into their profits. Craig Rogers, who burns through 50 gallons of gas a day tending his lobster traps along Maine's rocky coast, blames commodities traders, though he questions whether politicians are doing enough. He said politicians are too well off to really grasp what ordinary people are going through.

"They can say they feel for us, they can say they understand us, but when you have that kind of money, there's no way you can truly understand what we're feeling," he said.


Associated Press Writers Jim Drinkard in Washington; Cain Burdeau in Louisiana; Chris Carola in Albany, N.Y.; Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y.; Jonathan Fahey and Christopher Hawley in New York; Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine; Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage, Alaska; and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this story.

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Grimbold wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 22,2012 | 06:05AM
kailuabred wrote:
I blame it on the car. If we didn't have cars, we'd be self sufficiant and oil would be cheap.
on March 22,2012 | 06:35AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Time to crank out alternatives sources of energy and make it attractive for the public.
on March 22,2012 | 06:32AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Oh yeah. Biodiesel at $16/gallon.
on March 22,2012 | 06:58AM
nippy68 wrote:
you really have to blame it on greedy oil companies and yes the fricken government. once again the nation will suffer because of greed. every time oil prices rise everything else will rise.
on March 22,2012 | 06:51AM
Grimbold wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 22,2012 | 07:35AM
Dragonman wrote:
Grimbold, one controls prices through supply and demand. There is adequate oil out there, the oil people control the price by the amount of fuel they refine, and don't forget that our state has a hand in gas prices also with their taxes, I think it adds on about one dollar to every gallon of gas.
on March 22,2012 | 09:24AM
alawai9th wrote:
Oil companies are publicly owned companies so that means the greedy public is to blame.
on March 22,2012 | 10:00AM
localpoi wrote:
We need to start drilling for oil in the U.S.
on March 22,2012 | 06:58AM
den1718 wrote:
some of it can be blamed on people who buy cars and trucks with bad gas mileage when they dont need to drive those kind of automobiles. Dont wait when gas prices are high and pay a premium for a better mileage automobile.
on March 22,2012 | 07:09AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
How about placing the blame on President Obama and his administration with their ideology with policies and rules that has created speculation on fossil fuel, causing the huge increase in oil prices. He and his administration can relieve the pressure that he and his administration created. And, give me a break when he is all political to approve the Southern portion of the Keystone that don't even require his approval. He must approve the 100 feet of pipeline between Canada and the United States. The rest of the pipeline is in the United States. Oh, now the facts about United States reserves are being made public and we find out the United States can supply the entire World for a 100 years or more. Wow, what is President Obama thinking when he hurts all the citizens of the United States because of his ideology.
on March 22,2012 | 07:23AM
Larry01 wrote:
Blaming Obama is just a partisan red herring. The oil speculation has been going on for decades - there really isn't a whole lot government can do under the free trade economy. That's the system we have, like it or not. What we've got to do is find alternative ways of powering our vehicles.
on March 22,2012 | 08:51AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Hey Larry01, you are correct that "oil speculation has been going on for decades." So, what should President Obama do? He should evaluate the real data on U.S. sources and potential oil and gas production, and use the U.S. oil reserves as an advantage over all the oil producing areas of the World. We, not OPEC, would control oil prices and we could have it reduced to a $2.00 rate at the pump. I believe in electric powered automobiles for Hawaii, and (many oppose what I will say) that Hawaii must place on the table mini-nuclear power plants that produce 100 to 200 MW for 40 to 50 years without refueling. Hawaii's electric cost would be in the $0.10/kwh and not the $0.28/kwh today. Hey, we have some 20 mini-nuclear power plants stationed at Pearl Harbor. Today our nuclear submarines do not requre refueling for the life of the submarine. Larry01, it is President Obama, his Czars, and Dept. Secretaries who are directly connected to our close to $5.00/gal at the pump. It's not a partisan red herring.
on March 22,2012 | 11:14AM
Dragonman wrote:
Sorry, but the majority of oil that will be piped in the keystone pipe line is for export. It is a cheap way to get the product to the Gulf of Mexico and than shipped overseas. This was reported on the news this morning. The pipe line will do nothing to lower the price of gas. It will only make money for the oil companies. We should all invest in the oil companies, than we will not feel as bad as we watch the price of gas go up and up and up.
on March 22,2012 | 09:28AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Dragonman, Sorry, but your statement is not true. I sat in on a number of meetings beginning in 2004 in Detroit and Las Vagas with our Canadian Union leaders on discussions with the Sand/Shale oil and the pipeline from Canada to the United States. We were briefed that China was standing in line behind the United States willing to pay for the pipeline and having the Canadian oil to go from the oil fields to the Canadian West coast and to China. Yep, I'm one of the LIUNA executives (Laborers' Union), the Union that signed the Project Labor Agreement that the pipeline from Canada through the United States would be done by union labor and the reason why the Teamsters and Operators Unions have joined the Laborers in opposing the decision of President Obama and his Administration rejecting the Keystone pipeline. Think about it, if the United States sold oil or refined products to China, we would be pricing our products to begin reversing our trade in-balance with China. We will begin getting our money back. Dragonman, the U.S.would tax (tariff) all the products that leave our shores. We certainly will get our money back.
on March 22,2012 | 11:29AM
mcc wrote:
The United States knew this was going to happen years ago when we had to line up on odd and even days to buy gas. The strong lobby in Detroit kept electric cars from becoming a reality. If they had starded creating an efficient car then, we would not be so dependant on oil.
on March 22,2012 | 07:47AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
I blame the current and past three presidents. We dumped billions of taxpayer dollars into Kuwait and Iraq. Their citizens pay about $0.30 a gallon. The US government should have stepped in and demanded cheap oil as re-payment and limited big oil profits.
on March 22,2012 | 07:55AM
kainalu wrote:
Don't know who to blame???? Jeez! BIG OIL, ignorants. Six of the Top 10 most-profitable corporations are BIG OIL corporations!
on March 22,2012 | 08:10AM
kona1069 wrote:
If you didn't know that gas prices would eventually go up in price, then welcome to reality! Gas prices was always going up!
on March 22,2012 | 08:42AM
HD36 wrote:
Blame the government for causing inflation. Everything that trades on the world market has gone up.
on March 22,2012 | 09:25AM
gari wrote:
It is the articles like the one that was run last week " drilling no corallation to price " ; drilling was always a way to be less dependant on the out side forces first then later with alternatives (oil new supply ) the prices will drop . when they know we are serious about solving the problem then the prices will drop .Get the speculators out let the market return .
on March 22,2012 | 11:23AM
islandboy1562 wrote:
Every country wanting to be like us(USA-big industrialized nation ), has impacted the cost of oil. The american dream of owning cars, having the middle class life has transformed third world countries to be a USA wannabes. We now live in a global society and must compete to get resources like the rest of the world, which drives up the price. I know rail in Hawaii is a touchy subject but as gas goes over the $5 -$7 a gallon mark over the next 3 years, people won't be critical of Mayor Carlise, but maybe upset that he didn't go far enough, I mean the Italian manufacturer proably would have given us a "volume" discount for 3 rail's( Oahu, Hawaii, Maui) instead of only one with the "high overhead costs:"- LOL. He should have had the foresight to convince the other Mayors to join in.
on March 22,2012 | 12:47PM
stanislous wrote:
Politions voted to require 10% ethanol, which has only caused problems and added expense to driving. They also made all the laws requiring auto makers to build cars no one wants to buy because they don't work rite. What about the government TAXes on gas? Obama himself said raise the price of gas so no one will be able to afford to drive a car. If all these things they started doing 25 years ago to "improve the environment" and "remove our dependence on foreign oil" haven't worked and haven''t succeeded in "bringing down the price of gas"... Why are we still listening to these elected officials? I see lots of easy ways to bring down the price of gas... starting with getting rid of ethanol.
on March 22,2012 | 01:32PM
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