Democratic leaders intensify blame on Wall Street for rising oil prices

House Democratic leaders this week intensified their blame of Wall Street for the nation's rising fuel costs.

The lawmakers say the unchecked manipulation of global energy markets, not a dearth of oil-and-gas production at home, is behind the recent spike in prices at the pump.

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"It isn't a shortage of gasoline, it's a manipulation of the gas prices," Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. "You have got to go after the gougers, you have to make it so that they can't win."

Rep. John Larson (Conn.), the House Democratic Caucus chairman, delivered a similar message, saying "unbelievable speculation" on Wall Street is driving the cost surge.

"If [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad sneezes, what gives the right of speculators to continue to jack up the price of oil?" Larson asked.

The average price of gas topped $3.71 per gallon Tuesday — up 30 cents from a month ago, according to AAA — leading GOP leaders to hammer President Obama's energy strategy, which they say prioritizes environmental concerns above fuel production.

"The president says he’s for an 'all-of-the-above' energy plan. Has anyone seen it?" House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) asked during a press briefing in the Capitol. "I’ve not seen it.”

Democrats have pushed back against those accusations, noting that domestic production of oil and national gas has increased every year under the Obama administration.

"We're producing more oil today than we did five years ago [and] 10 years ago," Becerra said. "The proof is in the pudding: None of you is spending long hours in a gasoline line. … There isn't a problem with supply, it's more an issue … of speculation."

Democrats are urging the elimination of tax breaks and other subsidies to the oil-and-gas industry, arguing that those companies simply don't need taxpayer help in light of soaring profits.

"Show me an example where the marketplace works with respect to oil distribution, and yet we continue to provide subsidies to the oil companies?" Larson said.

Larson said Congress should eliminate those subsidies for oil companies and distribute that money instead to fuel consumers.

"This is not a time for us to spook the American public into thinking there is a shortage of gasoline," Becerra added. "This is a time to get the American consumer to recognize that there are folks who are gaming the system when it comes to our gasoline and our energy, and they're making tons of money."

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