Painfully high gas prices could hamper President Obama’s reelection bid.

High gas prices are not welcome in an election year and President Barack Obama has defended his energy policy vigorously, challenging attacks from Republicans, who on their campaign trail are having a field day blaming the President for the high gas prices. Mr. Obama stressed that his policies have reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil to a 16 year low, with net oil imports as a share of total U.S. consumption at 45 percent, from 57 percent when the President took office in 2008, as reported in a study on energy security. This 20 page report highlighted an increase in domestic oil and gas production coupled with steps to enhance fuel efficiency by the Obama administration and a reduction of U.S oil imports from 11 million barrels a day in January 2009 to 8.4 million barrels a day by the end of 2011.

President Obama while visiting the election battleground states of North Carolina and Virginia while saying that some progress has been made, reiterated that the U.S. had to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, stressing that the pain at the pump is a ‘reminder that there’s much more work to do to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil and take control of our energy future’.

Gas prices have been as high as 5$ a gallon in some parts of the country and are hovering at a national average of $3.81 a gallon. This steep increase in prices is due to the unrest in the Middle East coupled with a positive outlook for the American and European economies. The White house is also looking into possible manipulation of the oil markets and price gouging at the pump as possible reasons for high gas prices.

These high gas prices are seen as something that could derail the economy that is slowly recovering from a severe recession. It is said to be the cause of the high disapproval ratings of the Obama presidency’s handling of the economy. The Republicans are accusing the government of red tapeism, highlighting the blocking of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project by the Obama administration as the white house’s pandering to the environmentalist lobby that form an important component of the democratic base.

While independent analysts do not see any relief in the near future; Charles Ebinger, director of the initiative at The Brookings Institution says that he does not feel that there is anything further that the president can do to reduce the price at the pump or further decrease oil imports at this time.

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