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Obama: No 'silver bullet' for gas price pain. GOP says drill more.

Staking his ground, and perhaps his reelection, on a 'green' ideology, President Obama said in his weekly Saturday address that high gas prices confirm the need for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. Republicans push more domestic oil production.

By Staff writer / February 25, 2012

Gas prices are posted at a Sunoco gas station Friday in Philadelphia. The price of gasoline has soared as oil prices rise. The national average jumped by nearly 12 cents per gallon in a week, with state averages above $4 per gallon in California, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Record Big Oil profits, gut-punching gas prices at the pump, and $4 billion in yearly government oil subsidies. To President Obama, that confluence confirms what he's been saying all along: America needs to start coming clean from its oil addiction.

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“Look, we know there’s no silver bullet that will bring down gas prices or reduce our dependence on foreign oil overnight,” Obama said in his weekly Saturday address. “But what we can do is get our priorities straight, and make a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem.”

The unseasonal gas price spike – averaging $3.57 for February nationally– threatens the nation's fragile economic recovery. But Obama's decision to use the moment to push his “all-of-the-above” approach – subsidizing the developing of alternative energy sources like wind alongside more measured oil exploration – carries real political risk.

The Monitor's Weekly News Quiz for Feb. 18-25, 2012

It certainly is providing political opportunity for Republican presidential candidates, who are promising that their plans for more domestic drilling, including off the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, continued subsidies, and regulatory relief could bring prices to below $3 and would mean, as candidate Newt Gingrich said Thursday, that “no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again.”

“We'd almost feel sorry for Mr. Obama's gas-price predicament if it weren't a case of rough justice,” the Wall Street Journal opined on Friday. “The President has deliberately sought to raise the price of energy throughout the economy via his cap-and-trade agenda. He is now getting his wish, albeit a little too overtly for political comfort.”

To be sure, the reasons for the price spike are complex, tied in large part to rising tensions in the Middle East between Israel and Iran. And predictions that gas could reach $4.00 a gallon nationally by summer comes even as the US has increased its domestic oil output, despite a lengthy drilling ban after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

But another key cause, experts say, is the Fed's answer to the country's lending woes, leading most recently to promises of near-zero interest rates through 2014, a policy that has weakened the dollar's value even as it attempts to drive up lending in order to revive the economy. Since oil is traded in dollars, that “easy money” monetary policy is helping to drive up the market price of crude, now hovering at around $120 a barrel.

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