To be sure, the reasons for the price spike are complex, tied in large part to rising tensions in the Middle East between Israel and Iran. And predictions that gas could reach $4.00 a gallon nationally by summer comes even as the US has increased its domestic oil output, despite a lengthy drilling ban after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
But another key cause, experts say, is the Fed's answer to the country's lending woes, leading most recently to promises of near-zero interest rates through 2014, a policy that has weakened the dollar's value even as it attempts to drive up lending in order to revive the economy. Since oil is traded in dollars, that “easy money” monetary policy is helping to drive up the market price of crude, now hovering at around $120 a barrel.
Republicans blame the administration's policies for halving the number of drilling permits, nixing the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought Canadian shale oil to US refineries in Texas, and promoting government investment in risky and unproven alternatives.
Republican presidential candidates have been quick to bring up the recent bankruptcy of the administration-backed solar energy firm Solyndra and have mocked vows by the President to use algae and chicken manure to help the country become more energy-independent.