US national average price of regular unleaded gasoline stood at $3.86 per gallon, up $1 from a year ago Faced with skyrocketing oil prices as they struggle to emerge from a deep recession, Americans are blaming speculators and the unrest roiling the Arab world. As of Sunday, the national average price of regular unleaded
gasoline stood at $3.86 per gallon (3.78 liters), while a handful of states such as California ($4.21 average) and New York ($4.07) broke the $4 barrier, according to the AAA motor club. Overall, prices are up $1 from a year ago.
The last record dates back to July 2008, when the price of gas reached a national average of $4.11 per gallon. In parts of the US capital, the pricetag already runs as high as $4.99 per gallon. That\'s still a far cry from Europe\'s long history of high gas prices and taxes. Europeans pay nearly twice more than Americans, about 5.78 euros ($8.41) per gallon. Yet in a sprawling country where cars are ubiquitous and people rely heavily on them, Americans are looking for a scapegoat.
A McClatchy poll released Wednesday found 36 percent blamed the upheaval sparked by pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa for the price hikes, while 33 percent laid blame on greedy oil companies.
Another 11 percent said it was President Barack Obama\'s fault while six percent found Congress to be responsible. \"There\'s plenty of blame to go around for high fuel prices in the minds of Americans,\" concluded Lee Miringoff, head of Marist College\'s Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. But voters may also turn against Obama with his reelection bid gearing up.
Prices are going through the roof at a time when a CBS News/New York Times poll found 70 percent of Americans believe the country is on the \"wrong track\" -- a 20 percent increase since Obama took office in January 2009 -- while more than half disapproved of his handling of the economy.
Aware of the danger to his hopes to secure another four-year term in car-loving America, Obama discussed the concerns unprompted with voters as he toured the country this week in California, Nevada and Virginia. \"My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people,\" he told Democratic donors in Los Angeles. In Palo Alto, he acknowledged that \"these gas prices are killing you right now.\"
And a National Journal poll of political insiders found that most senior analysts, including 75 percent of Democrats, agreed that Obama\'s Democratic Party will be \"hurt more by rising gas prices.\" High gas prices could certainly turn into political liability for Obama, who is renewing his push for renewable energy and fuel-efficient vehicles. \"Instead of subsidizing yesterday\'s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow\'s,\" Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday. \"We need to invest in clean, renewable energy. In the long term, that\'s the answer.\"
Earlier this week, he pointed the finger at what he called oil \"speculators,\" before announcing the creation of a Department of Justice working group that will probe oil price fraud and speculation. Some 44 percent of Democrats also blamed speculators for the high prices in the McClatchy poll, while Republicans laid blame on Arab uprisings.
The Energy Information Administration predicts US consumption of oil -- 75 percent of which it uses for vehicles and aircraft -- will slow to a 1.1 percent annual increase this year, down from two percent in 2010. The McClatchy survey also noted an increase in carpooling and the use of public transportation. Keen on using down to the last drop of oil they can spare, more and more American drivers are running out of gas behind the wheel. AAA\'s Auto Club of Southern California, home to some of the country\'s highest gas prices, noted a 13-percent increase in servicing drivers who ran out of gas in just the first three months of 2011. Across the nation, the auto club is now providing service to some 16,000 drivers each month who let their tanks run completely dry, said spokeswoman Marie Montgomery. \"It\'s so painful to go to the gas station they just put it off and they can make it,\" she said.
\"People say \'it\'s so expensive, I thought I could make it\' and they don\'t.\"