Lloyd Boatner said the country should release some of its oil reserves to give consumers some relief at the pump. Putting $11 of regular grade gas in his late model sedan at a suburban Harvey gas station barely got him 2.5 gallons.
“It’s crazy. It doesn’t make sense,” he said of gas prices.
Gas was $4.26 per gallon for regular grade at the Go Lo gas station at 154th Street and Dixie Highway in the south suburban town. It was 20 to 40 cents less than some stations in the city, but still too much Boatner said.
“It’s just too expensive,” he said.
Chicago leads the nation with some of the highest prices at the pump, according to GasBuddy.com which tracks fuel costs. On February 19 the average gas price in Chicago was $3.59. One month later the average cost is $4.38, according to the site. Further, AAA indicates that the national average now for gas is $3.66
Like Boatner and many other consumers, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-1st, wants to know what is driving gas prices to higher rates week after week. The veteran congressman, who faced re-election in the March 20 primary, spoke earlier this month on Capitol Hill at a House Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing about gas prices. Rush, who is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, called for an investigation into the role of Wall Street speculators in the price hike.
“Mr. Chairman, we all know that gas prices are set on the global market and there are a variety of geopolitical factors that determine the price of fuel, many of which are beyond the control of the president or the Congress. But there are some factors that we do have control over, including looking at the role of speculators in setting fuel prices,” he said. “In fact, Mr. Chairman, I believe it would benefit this subcommittee to hold a hearing strictly on this issue in order to bring transparency to the American people so we can all better understand the role that speculators play in raising fuel prices.
Rush told the Chicago Citizen that supply and demand usually drives gas prices. But he would like to probe the recent spike to ensure that unlawful Wall Street greed isn’t involved. He said the recent cost increases come at a time when the country is producing more oil and importing less – previously, a U.S dependence on foreign oil suppliers was blamed for high fuel costs here. Rush added that American demand had lowered over the last year.
“Speculators project a rise in demand for gasoline during the summer driving season. Futures traders speculating on the price of crude oil in a manner that violates securities regulations can also drive up the price of gasoline and heating oil. We need more oversight to make sure that regulators act aggressively to end these practices,” he said.
Boatner said that buying gas regrettably puts a strain on household budgets, forcing choices between one household need over another.
“I know how (elderly) people feel, having to choose between food and medicine and gas,” he said.
Rush said the sharp fluctuations also adds frustration for families trying to budget for household expenses. One month ago gas was about 80 cents per gallon cheaper, according to GasBuddy.com.
“How can you plan when you don’t know what gasoline prices are going to be? Also they impact the price of food and other goods,” he said.
But Rush said consumers may soon decrease demand, refusing to pay high gas prices and opting for other forms of transportation when they can, which will force gas prices to down.
“Also consumers can assist lawmakers and the president (Barack Obama) by documenting steep price spikes in gas prices and reporting to their members of congress and to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” he said. “Ultimately the American people will decide where fuel prices will end up. In our free market economy the decisions of consumers can and do trump all else.”
By Rhonda Gillespie