April 17, 2012
A woman returns to her car after filling up at a gas station advertising regular gasoline on sale for $4.32 Wednesday, March 9, 2011, in San Diego. Gas pump prices continued to climb, reaching a national average of $3.524 for a gallon of regular on Wednesday, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
With American motorists facing high gas prices, U.S. President Barack Obama is set to call for a government "crackdown" on manipulation of oil markets.
Obama is planning to ask Congress Tuesday to approve a $52 million request to regulate oil trading. The White House said it is "critically important" to make sure that "illegal manipulation, fraud and market rigging" are not contributing to current high gas prices in the U.S.
In a nation with motorists long wedded to their cars, many drivers are complaining about the high price of gas, which now averages more than more than $1 a liter ($3.90 a gallon). That is lower than in many other countries, but high by U.S. standards, and a political problem for Obama as he seeks re-election to another four-year term.
In the U.S., the price of crude oil on world markets accounts for about three-fourths of the cost of gasoline that consumers pay. Oil has risen 5 percent this year, hovering above $104 a barrel in Tuesday trading on the New York market.
Numerous factors affect the price of oil, including tensions over the West's demand that oil-producing Iran curb its nuclear weapons development program, an effort Tehran says is only for civilian purposes.
Whether Congress will approve more regulation of oil trading is questionable. Obama, a Democrat, has been unsuccessful in convincing opposition Republicans to end government subsidies to highly profitable oil companies. Republican lawmakers have called for less government regulation of corporate interests and called on Obama to concentrate on boosting U.S. oil and natural gas production.