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Gasoline prices are up to $4 a gallon. Is that 'Big Oil's' fault?

Pointing to record profits and unprecedented gasoline prices, President Obama and congressional Democrats want to end subsidies to the oil and gas industry. Republicans and the industry say that would harm the economy.

By Staff writer / April 30, 2011

A Chevron customer pumps gas in Mountain View, Calif. Chevron said Friday that its first-quarter earnings rose 36 percent. The company received higher prices for the oil it produced, and also made more money from refining oil.

Paul Sakuma/AP

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If you have to fill your gas tank this weekend – whether or not it takes a second mortgage to pay the tab – you’re a soldier in the hottest political fight over energy and the economy. Or maybe you feel more like “collateral damage” as President Obama, lawmakers, and “Big Oil” battle over who’s at fault for $4-per-gallon gasoline.

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In his radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama repeated his call to end “unwarranted taxpayer subsidies we’ve been handing out to oil and gas companies – to the tune of $4 billion a year.”

“When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right,” Obama said Saturday. “They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.”

RELATED: Gas prices: 10 ways you can save at the pump

Them’s fightin’ words to his political opponents, particularly those from oil-producing states.

"The president may think he's punishing CEOs of big companies, but his plan will hurt the everyday consumer of energy and imperil the jobs of millions of hardworking people in American-based companies," first-term Congressman James Lankford from Oklahoma said in the Republicans' weekly address.

The average national price for regular gasoline right now is $3.91 a gallon. In 22 states it’s higher than that, and the price has jumped past $4 in Alaska, California, and Connecticut.

Obama says oil companies are at least partly to blame, and his main ammo are their newly-announced profit statements.

ExxonMobil reports first-quarter profits of $10.7 billion – 69 percent above the company’s first quarter of 2010. Royal Dutch Shell marked $6.9 billion in profits, an increase of 40 percent over last year’s first-quarter number. Chevron Corp. saw its first-quarter net income go up 36 percent to $6.2 billion. BP made $5.5 billion.

Industry spokesmen say such figures should be put into broader perspective.

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