Energy walks back $4 gas prediction

Gasoline prices likely won’t reach a national average of $4 per gallon during the summer driving season, the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Tuesday, walking back earlier predictions.

That’s welcome news for consumers, who have grown increasingly worried about the effect of high gasoline prices on their pocketbooks.

EIA, the Energy Department’s independent statistical arm, predicted Tuesday in its short-term energy outlook that gasoline prices will average $3.79 per gallon during the April-to-September summer driving season.

The estimate is 16 cents lower than the average price EIA predicted in April. EIA said at the time that prices at the pump would average $3.95 per gallon during the summer, peaking in May at $4.01 per gallon.

In its short-term energy outlook Tuesday, EIA said it lowered its prediction because of "falling global crude oil prices over the past month."

Gasoline prices began dropping last month after reaching a national average of $3.94 per gallon on April 6, the highest point this year. Prices have continued to fall, decreasing to a national average of $3.76 per gallon Tuesday, according to AAA.

Energy analysts told The Hill in April that gasoline prices had likely reached their peak.

The news could deflate GOP attacks on President Obama over high gasoline prices.

The GOP, hoping to inflict political damage on Obama going into the election, spent months trying put the blame for high gasoline prices squarely on the president’s shoulders. Republican lawmakers blasted Obama’s energy policies, arguing he has not done enough to expand domestic oil-and-gas production.

The White House, keenly aware of polls that show high prices could take a political toll on the president, worked to undercut the GOP attacks.

The president gave a slew of energy speeches earlier this year in which he stressed that there are no quick fixes to gasoline prices, while stressing his administration’s efforts to expand drilling.

Energy experts say federal policymakers have little control over high gasoline prices because they are tethered to oil prices, which are set on world markets. Even a dramatic expansion of domestic oil-and-gas leasing would have little effect on prices, they say.