By Bernie Becker - 05/16/11 06:44 PM EDT
The price of oil fell below $100 a barrel this month for the first time since March, after seeing increases early this year. Regular gas currently costs an average of around $3.96 a gallon, after coming in at $2.87 a gallon a year ago.
Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the JEC, said in a statement that the Fed and the Obama administration’s “weak dollar policies” were hurting Americans at the gas pump.
"Rather than pointing fingers at energy manufacturers the President should be looking to his own Treasury and the Fed for answers to the high price of fuel,” Brady said in a statement.
A spokesman for Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the JEC chairman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new report.
Scott Lilly of the progressive Center for American Progress told The Hill that a weak dollar indeed led to higher oil prices. But he said that Republicans were wrong to blame the decrease in the dollar on Fed policy, saying it was instead caused by decades of trade imbalances.
"If you want to say that we have high gas prices because of the weak dollar, then trade policies of the past administration are more connected to that than anything else," Lilly said.
The Republican study – which notes that analysts have also said that unrest in the Middle East, a stronger economy and other factors have played a role in the cost of gas – comes as both gas prices and the Federal Reserve policies have been garnering attention.
Top congressional Democrats have been pushing to end tax credits and deductions used by the largest oil-and-gas companies, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announcing a new campaign to that end on Monday. Casey's staff also prepared a report on that issue that was released last week.
For their part, the GOP-led House recently passed three bills aimed at increasing offshore drilling.
As for the government’s monetary policy, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stressed he was committed to a strong dollar last month.
The Fed is scheduled to end its current round of quantitative easing, which has seen the buying of hundreds of billions of dollars in Treasury bonds, by the end of next month.
Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, has pointed to quantitative easing as one of the measures the central bank has taken to fight unemployment. The Fed has a dual mandate of maximizing employment and keeping prices stable.
But some Republicans, like Brady, have indicated that the Fed should only concern itself with inflation. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, also said in a Monday speech that the central bank’s recent monetary policy had done more harm than good.