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S T A T S   W A T C H :
Republicans, Democrats: Their Records on Gas Prices
Gasoline Prices 1993-Present

Don't Be Fooled by Political Spin... From Either Side

        Politicians and pundits from both parties are conveniently distorting the facts about nationwide gas prices, and how the current President's record compares with that of his predecessor. Here are the facts, based on the Energy Department's own figures of the average price of regular grade at the pump.
        The average weekly price of regular during the Bush years was $2.13, and so far the average Obama gas price is $3.12. So if either President could be said to "win" that contest, it would be Bush by a significant margin.

U.S. Energy Information Agency
        But beware those that tell you, "Gas prices were $1.85 when Obama took office and now they are approaching $4.00." When they say it this way, they are hoping you'll believe the Bush years were a utopia of relatively low prices, and that Obama has radically changed the status quo. In reply, Democrats have been heard to say, "Well, if you're blaming Obama for gas prices going up in the Spring, I hope you'll be willing to give him credit when they go down in the Fall, which they always do." While gas prices were at $1.85 when Bush left office (as Republicans note), and while there is some seasonal cyclical nature to the relative rise and fall of those prices (as Democrats maintain), both assertions hide the undisputable fact, clearly shown on the graph above, that the overall trajectory of gas prices has been up during both administrations.
        Here is a summary of other facts illustrated in the graph above, with key dates and events shown with labeled vertical lines:
•   Gas hit a high of $4.14 in July 2008 toward the end of Bush's administration, and it has not returned to that level again — yet.
The trend in gas prices began its rise upwards in the last two years of the Clinton administration. After hitting as low as 93 cents per gallon in March 1998, the trend of increases began almost immediately after the election of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela.
Price at the pump dipped sharply after Bush was inaugurated, and then (after a slight dip in the immediate aftermath of 9/11) continued its rise until 2008.
Interruption of the Gulf oil industry brought about by Hurricane Katrina caused a brief spike in gas prices, which then reverted to previous levels soon thereafter.
The largest spike upward, which ended in the $4.14 high, occurred when the U.S. Stock Market lost 3% in value in one day in early February 2008.
The only reason the Obama administration inherited gas prices as low as they did is the precipitous fall in those prices brought on by the economic crisis of 2008, represented in the graph above by the date of Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.
A tick upward in gas prices started just after the 2008 election, beginning a journey that would see a three-year high of $3.97 in 2011.
During that period, prices took a brief, mild dip downward in the aftermath of the BP oil spill, then resumed its upward trajectory. In addition, there were sharp downward turns immediately after the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Having tested the $4.00 level three times, average weekly seem currently to be backing away from that benchmark.
        So the non-partisan truth here seems to be that neither President can claim the high ground in low gas prices. The predominant trajectories of at-the-pump gas prices during both the Bush and Obama administrations have been upward, though the rise was almost twice as steep in the Obama administration:

Time required for gas prices to double from $1.85 to $3.70

Bush era:  209 weeks  (3 May 2004 to 5 May 2008)
Obama era:  115 weeks  (20 January 2009 to 4 April 2011)

        The rise in gas prices during the Obama administration (the "$1.85 to $4.00" Republican argument noted above) might be explained as the result of gas prices seeking to return to Bush-era highs. There is, however, another obvious fact: Having inherited gas levels below $2.00 a gallon (regardless of how or why it occurred), both administrations presided over the more than doubling of that price. The only question is whether the rise is due to issues outside of governmental control, or there was/is no political will to keep gas prices low.
Graph created and analysis written by