By Andrew Restuccia - 03/14/12 05:28 PM EDT
Growing international tensions with Iran have sparked concerns about supply disruptions, fears that Schumer said have contributed to high oil and gasoline prices.
“With Iran’s saber-rattling, they might well cut off oil exports, the price has gone up and up and up,” Schumer said. He added that “those who speculate on oil use ... probably make it go up further.”
Schumer called on Saudi Arabia to repeat its intention to make up for supply losses, arguing the comments will drive down gas prices, which are tethered to global oil prices.
“If the markets believe this is real, the price will come down even further. So we are asking the Saudis to repeat this promise,” Schumer said.
“The more explicit they are, the more emphatic they are, the more they ensure the markets that they are for real here," he continued, "the more the markets will calm down more permanently and the more the price will come down.”
Schumer and other Democrats in Congress are working to undercut Republican attacks on President Obama over high gas prices, which reached an average of $3.81 per gallon nationally Wednesday, according to AAA.
The GOP is trying to pin the blame for prices at the pump squarely on Obama’s shoulders, arguing he has not opened up enough federal land to drilling and criticizing his decision to reject a key permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Schumer asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month to urge Saudi Arabia to boost output.
"These skyrocketing fuel prices are directly linked to the global energy market, particularly Iran’s recent efforts to manipulate oil prices and the worry of impacts on supply from an escalation of regional hostilities," Schumer said in a February letter to Clinton.
"To address this situation, I urge the State Department to work with the government of Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production, as they are currently producing well under their capacity."
Schumer said Wednesday that the Obama administration followed through on his request.
“Their pressure has finally gotten the Saudis to make this statement,” he said.
Republicans have slammed Schumer’s calls for Saudi Arabia to increase its oil output, arguing that Democrats should be focused on increasing production in the United States.
“Rather than approve the Keystone pipeline, the Democrats’ energy plan now calls for the most powerful nation in the free world to politely ask other countries for more oil and cross our fingers,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement responding to Schumer’s February letter.