NEW YORK (
) -- Sitting presidents in recent history have had worse gasoline-price spikes during their tenures.
Newt Gingrich has slammed President Obama this week for a hefty rise in gasoline prices in an effort to rally supporters and add another condemnation against the president's record.
Obama faces criticism at the pump
"During the years I was speaker the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.13, and when President Obama took office in January 2009 the average price nationwide was $1.89 a gallon," Gingrich said in a Thursday statement. "Three years into the Obama presidency, the average is $3.47 a gallon."
Weekly U.S. regular gasoline prices for retail hit $1.84 for a gallon in the first week of Obama's presidency, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The lowest during his tenure came the next week at $1.838. Per-gallon prices peaked at $3.98 on May 23, 2011, but have settled at $3.59.
A 95% spike in gas prices since Obama took office hasn't pleased many American drivers -- it's even worse when you consider the 116.3% peak spike -- but this isn't the worst since 1990.
In fact, George W. Bush's administration experienced a 179.6% spike in gasoline prices during two weeks of his presidency. A regular gallon of gas peaked at $4.11 on July 7, 2008, which was 14 cents higher than the most expensive week in Obama's first term.
Gingrich and other critics have blamed price bumps at the pump on Obama's energy policies.
"He has stubbornly prevented the development of American of oil and gas resources that could be used to meet greater demand with increased production," Gingrich said in the statement. "In spite of these resources, President Obama has opposed policies at every step that could lower the price of gasoline."
Maybe so, but Obama argued in his State of the Union speech that American oil production is at its highest in eight years and that the country has relied on the least amount of foreign oil in the last 16.
Energy analysts, economists and commodities experts offer another possible reason for the prohibitive expense.
geopolitical risks tied to Iran and sustained global economic turmoil led by Europe have driven up oil prices. Further, oil is priced in U.S. dollars, so demand and prices jump when the greenback weakens.
Though it is unlikely that Obama can control speculation on oil, there is growing sentiment that prices will decline over the long run.
"We ... believe that the tightening of new CAFE (federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy mileage) requirements that take effect from 2012 will contribute to a further, gradual decline in gasoline demand as the year unfolds,"
said Abhishek Deshpande, an energy analyst for Natixis.
Declining gas demand due to tightened fuel-efficiency regulations and an aging population could be leading to a permanent path of demand destruction. A drop in demand coupled by sustained average oil supplies means that gasoline prices will shrink.
But without getting bogged down in the technical conversation of oil futures, currency markets and geopolitical conflict, it's difficult to find proof that gas prices are enough to boot an incumbent president.
From Aug. 20, 1990, the earliest weekly gasoline data provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, to the day before Bill Clinton won the 1992 election, George H. W. Bush's administration saw a decline to $1.12 per gallon from $1.19. Gasoline peaked in that period at $1.35 and bottomed at $1.
In the week of Clinton's 1996 re-election, gas prices had increased 16 cents to $1.22 during his first term. By the time he left office, they were at $1.47, up 38.7%, his final week in office. Prices went as high as $1.68 and dipped as low as 91 cents under Clinton.
Bush saw an almost identical rise in gas prices in his first term, as a regular gallon at the pump the week of his re-election hit $2.03, up 38.1% from his first week as president. Upon his exit of the White House, gas had settled at $1.85, up 38 cents during the former president's tenure, but well off the $4.11 high. The lowest weekly per-gallon price under Bush was $1.06.
It's possible that gas prices will weigh heavily on Obama's re-election chances, but recent history shows that there probably isn't much of a pattern to prove that Americans vote at the pump.
-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.
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