HARTFORD, CT — Gas prices are now 25 percent higher than they were last year and Democrats in Congress are borrowing a play from Republicans by blaming the occupant of the White House.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited the Shell gas station on Capitol Avenue Tuesday where the cash price for regular unleaded gas was $3.21 per gallon. Blumenthal called on Republican President Donald Trump to do something about the rising price of gas.
Blumenthal acknowledged that world events like the collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry, which was one of the largest foreign suppliers to the United States, has contributed to an increase in prices.
“But there are also clear steps that the President of the United States can take,” Blumenthal said.
He said Trump can put pressure on pressure OPEC members to increase supplies. He could also use his relationship with Saudi Arabia to get them to release more crude oil.
He said the increased demand coupled with the diminished supply is increasing gas prices not only in Connecticut, but nationally.
Last week, Democratic senators including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a news conference at a gas station near the U.S. Capitol to blame the price increase on Trump.
Blumenthal said Democrats are trying to draw attention to the president’s failure to take action to use his existing authority.
“Even if Congress is unable to provide additional authority there is clearly a need for the president to use his existing authority,” Blumenthal said.
He said Trump could pressure the World Trade Organization to take action.
Blumenthal said increased use of shale and exploration for oil in America has never been higher, but “we’re affected by the world market.”
Harry Arora, the Republican running against U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and co-founder of an investment firm said there’s a lot of hype about increasing gas prices and President Trump has taken the right steps.
“This hype is going to go away and market forces will lead to more production,” Arora. “President Trump has done the right thing by calling out the Saudi’s and OPEC.”
“Looks like OPEC is at it again…” the President tweeted on April 20. “Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!”
Arora said that tweet had an impact. He said the OPEC countries are also aware that American production of oil and shale are increasing and if they don’t release more supply now—they will lose in the future.
He said the only problem America has at the moment is getting the oil it produces to the market. He said there’s a lack of pipeline capacity.
Hours after Blumenthal held his press conference, the price of crude dropped $5 per barrel.
“As the summer driving season gets underway, there’s reason to be optimistic and perhaps happy: OPEC appears ready to raise crude oil production to meet higher global demand, dashing at least for now, the likelihood of seeing the national average hit that ugly $3/gallon mark,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy said. “For now, the national average peaked just under that level and prices are now starting to move ever-so-slowly lower, but more drops are coming.”
According to GasBuddy, which surveyed 135,000 gas stations, Connecticut’s average price per gallon was $3.13 Tuesday.
Blumenthal said drivers might see some relief at the pump over the next few weeks, but “the prognosis is very bad unless the president acts.”
He said the oil prices have no “economic justification.” He said the world’s economy isn’t 25 percent more prosperous than it was a year ago. He said for oil prices to jump 25 percent is “completely unjustifiable.”
He said he hopes this effort to get the president to act is bipartisan.