Newt Gingrich predicts high gas prices will 'crater' the economy

Former House Speaker and GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich hit the president again on Sunday over rising gas prices, saying that increasing pump prices would "crater" the economy by August.

“The price of gasoline is becoming a genuine crisis for many American families. If it continues to go higher, it will crater the economy by August because people will have no discretionary income,” said Gingrich on CNN’s "State of the Union."

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Republicans along with Gingrich have hammered Obama over rising gas costs, demanding action on energy production — calling for increased domestic drilling and for the administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The White House has said, however, that there are no quick fixes to rising costs and that the president is doing all he can to reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil by expanding domestic production and investing in renewable energy sources.

"President Obama goes into the fall with a weakening economy, very expensive gasoline, disastrously bad policy in the Middle East and a trillion-dollar deficit," Gingrich said. 

"That's a pretty big burden while he's waging war on the Catholic Church and apologizing to Islamic extremists and a pretty heavy burden for President of the United States to carry for reelection."

Republicans alleged last week that the Obama administration isn’t working to lower gas prices, pointing to Energy Secretary Stephen Chu's comments during a House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday.

Chu noted the “overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil" with alternative sources and efficiency. He added that this would help consumers and the economy.

But Republicans have nonetheless seized on the comments to claim the Obama administration doesn’t care if drivers pay more at the pump, because Chu didn’t call lowering prices the “overall goal.”

Following those comments on Tuesday, Gingrich said Obama should fire Chu and that keeping him on would show his commitment to “his radical ideology, which wants to artificially raise the cost of energy.”

Chu sought to put the allegations to rest later in the week.

“We very much want to not only slow the price, but reverse the price increase in gasoline,” he told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Thursday.

“We definitely feel the pain that every American and every business feels when the price of gasoline goes up,” he added, pointing to efforts to increase domestic production, boost energy efficiency and diversify energy sources away from petroleum.

On NBC’s "Meet the Press," Gingrich also again touted his plan for $2.50 per gallon gasoline, which the presidential hopeful says is achievable if he is elected.

Gingrich, who spent a short period at the top of national GOP polls after his victory in South Carolina's first-in-the-nation primary, predicted his campaign would rebound, in part buoyed by his energy policy. 

"I think with $2.57 a gallon of gasoline, with an American energy plan designed to give us independence from the Middle East so that no American president will ever again bow to a Saudi king, I think that we're coming back again for a third time," he said. 

Gingrich said his bold ideas on energy differentiated him from his GOP rivals. "I'm more willing to talk about the kinds of solutions we need with being able to produce enough oil and gas to be literally independent of the Middle East," he said.

—Ben Geman contributed.

This story was updated at 6:36 p.m.