House GOP to zero in on gas prices, drilling at upcoming hearings

Republicans have latched onto the price spikes, arguing that the Obama administration should greenlight additional oil and gas drilling. But analysts say that expanded drilling in the United States would have only a minimal effect on gas prices.

Still, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said Monday that the upcoming hearings will focus on gas prices and expanding domestic energy production.

“Gasoline prices are steadily climbing towards $4 per gallon and families and businesses across the country are feeling the pain at the pump,” Hastings said in a statement. “Our Committee will examine steps that can be taken to develop our own American energy resources and also what has or hasn’t been done since President Obama took office.”

Republicans are also raising the specter of a repeat of the summer of 2008, when gas prices crept past $4 a gallon.

“Americans know what $4 per gallon gasoline feels like and they don’t want to go back to those days.  They remember how it strained their monthly budget, increased costs for all types of goods and forced tough trade-offs on where and how to spend money,” Hastings said. “A return of that scenario would cost jobs and destroy any hope of economic recovery.”

The summer of 2008 was a politically tricky time for Obama, who was knee-deep in his presidential campaign and was forced to balance the public’s concerns about gas prices with his positions on offshore drilling

As gas prices rise, Obama now faces similarly tricky decisions, including whether to heed calls from his fellow Democrats to tap the country’s strategic oil reserves. So far, the administration has been cool to tapping the reserves.

On March 17, the House Natural Resources panel will hold a hearing on gas prices, domestic resources and the economy. On March 31, the committee will hold a hearing on the effect of gas prices on businesses and families.

As of Monday, the average gallon of regular gasoline was $3.50, up from this time last month, but still well below the all-time highest average price of $4.11, which came in July of 2008. Oil prices reached $106 per barrel Monday.