COMMENTARY | According to the most recent Lundberg Survey released Monday; the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States increased another 3.48 cents to $3.3944 a gallon. While this increase is at a slower rate than the previous increase two weeks earlier of 12.03 cents, rising gasoline prices further threaten the fragile U.S. economy. Escalating tensions with Iran and its threat published in its state backed Mehr News Agency to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which most of OPEC’s oil travels, continue to place upward pressures on the price of gasoline. Indeed, the European Union’s decision on Monday to support further sanctions and embargo the importation of Iranian oil seems to have further aggravated the Iranians despite their attempts to downplay the importance of the EU’s decision in their state-run media.
The rising costs of transportation continue to place pressures on U.S. consumers, as more of their budget must go to filling the gas tank, as well as paying higher prices on everything from food to prescriptions, as the price of everything that must be transported eventually increases as the cost of transportation increases. According to PollingReports, a compilation of various polls, the economy overwhelmingly remains the No. 1 concern of voters across the country. Given the facts that gasoline prices continue to rise and threaten the economy, the President’s decision last Wednesday to deny the XL pipeline application, with the thousands of new jobs that its construction and operation would create, as well as providing a more secure source of oil, is baffling to some Democrats.
When President Obama released his decision last week to deny the application for the XL pipeline he may have appealed to the portion of his base that are “green” supporters, but his decision gives his Republican opponents ammunition to use against him in the Presidential election in November. Monday, in an effort to blunt the effects of the expected upcoming Republican attack on the President’s decision, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby L. Rush (D) sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton(R) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R) urging them to invite a representative from Koch Industries to testify at Wednesday’s hearing on H.R. 3548, legislation that would transfer authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline away from the President and to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where its approval is expected. Koch Industries has been one of the main financial supporters of the tea party movement, which many feel has become an unruly wing of the Republican Party in deed if not in name. In the letter Waxman and Rush wrote, “We believe the growing questions about the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on Koch should be resolved before any votes are taken on legislation to promote the construction of the pipeline.”
While the Koch brothers support of the Tea Party Movement and the XL Pipeline may be seen as an attempt to line some pockets, even if these allegations should later prove to be true, it remains to be seen whether voters in November will care more about allegations of influence peddling, or for opportunities to provide secure sources of energy that stimulate the creation of jobs and improve the economy. American voters, whether they are Democrat or Republican, will be watching the President Tuesday night when he gives his State of the Union address to see if he has a plan that will provide secure energy, create jobs, and improve the economy. As long as the economy remains voter’s top issue, despite how his message is received, it will be the President’s follow through on such a plan in the coming months that will determine the results in November’s election. In this sense, the outcome of the election may come down to how much voters are paying at the pump for their gasoline.