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Gas Prices Take Center Stage in Race for White House

10:28 AM, Mar 2, 2012   |    comments
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NEW YORK -- The nationwide average for gasoline prices hovered just above $3.74 a gallon Friday, according to the motorist group AAA.

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline ticked up three-tenths of a cent in the latest 24-hour period, marking the 24th straight increase, AAA said. A month ago, the nationwide average was $3.45 a gallon.

Gas prices are up about 14% so far in 2012. The average price is down 37.3 cents, or about 9%, from the record high of $4.11 on July 17, 2008.

Average prices for regular gasoline top $4 a gallon in California, Alaska and Hawaii. At $4.36 a gallon, Hawaii ranks as the nation's high. Prices are within a nickel of the $4 mark in New York and Connecticut, according to AAA.

Wyoming has the nation's lowest gas prices, averaging $3.18 a gallon.

Gas prices have been rising on the back of soaring oil prices, which have surged 10% over the past month amid fears that tensions with Iran will lead to an all-out war that causes a disruption in oil supplies.

Brent crude, Europe's benchmark, hit $128.40 a barrel, while U.S. oil futures eclipsed $110 after a disputed report Thursday on Iran's Press TV and other Middle East outlets of a pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia.

Prices for Brent crude dropped to $125.45 and U.S. crude was at $108.50 on the NYMEX early Friday.

Signs of an improving economy have also boosted oil prices, as has the stock market. All three major indexes hit multi-year highs this week, and the S&P 500 (SPX) has risen by more than 8% in 2012.

As gas prices soar, Republican presidential candidates have tried to tie President Obama's policies to the increase.

On Thursday, Mitt Romney said Obama "should be hanging his head" over his energy policies and accused the president of slowing domestic production. Romney advocated opening federal lands to drilling and easing regulations on fracking, a controversial policy that involves pumping water into rocks to harvest gas.

Also on Thursday, Obama delivered a speech in New Hampshire that stressed that domestic oil and gas production is at its highest point since 2003. But he also emphasized the need to develop new energy sources, as domestic production alone is not enough to keep up with U.S. demand.

The president also called on Congress to end the $4 billion in subsidies to the oil industry so as to better incentivize companies to seek out clean-energy technologies

CNN

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