Friday, March 30, 2012

TOP STORY >> Gas prices climbing to $4 a gallon

Leader staff writer

Closing in on $4 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, the rising prices are now starting to attract some concern from elected officials.

On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced legislation to put the brakes on Wall Street speculators who, he believes, are driving up gas prices through excessive speculation.

Meanwhile, the state’s other senator, John Boozman (R-Ark.) brought Arkansans’ concerns about rising gas prices to the Senate floor this week.

In a speech Wednesday, Boozman highlighted some of the frustrations he has heard from Arkansans, including from postings on his Facebook page detailing how the increase in pump prices are affecting the daily lives of hardworking families. 

As of Friday, the average national price for a gallon of unleaded was $3.93, up from $3.73 a month ago, and at the state level is was running $3.77 a gallon, up from $3.55 a month ago.

Locally, gas is cheapest in Cabot and Sherwood with an average of $3.71 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Jacksonville comes in at $3.73 a gallon, Searcy is at $3.77 and Lonoke, Beebe and Carlisle are all averaging $3.79 for a gallon of gasoline.

Across the state, the northwest section has the cheapest average at $3.71, followed by Fort Smith at $3.73, central Arkansas at $3.77, Texarkana at $3.78 and Pine Bluff at $3.79.

“We import about nine million barrels of oil every day, about half of our supply. This is costly to our economy, our citizens and threatens our national security,” Boozman said.

In his Senate speech Boozman continued, “The increasing price of gas is a costly reminder of how dependent our country is on foreign oil. This is one of the most pressing issues we’re facing today because the price at the pump directly impacts our everyday lives and Arkansans are telling me they are worried about what it’s doing to their bottom line,” he said in his speech.

“Americans are frustrated with the increasing cost of gas and rightfully so. In my home state of Arkansas the cost for a regular gallon of gas is up 22 cents from a month ago according to AAA.

“The letters, calls, emails and Facebook posts I receive from Arkansans are saying the same thing….it’s harder to fill up their gas tanks while making ends meet. 
Arkansas families are faced with tough choices because the rising prices are dipping into family’s disposable incomes. The increasing expense for gas puts a strain on family budgets. 
“American families and businesses deserve a plan that will help bring down the price at the pump,” Boozman said in the speech. 

Pryor said he supports efforts under way by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to curtail excessive speculation that inflates the cost of oil.

He wants to address a remaining loophole that enables Wall Street speculators to manipulate the price of oil without ever taking control of the oil. Currently, Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds control approximately 65-75 percent of the energy futures market.

“Wall Street brought our country to a near economic collapse and cost millions of people their jobs. We’re seeing big investment banks and hedge funds return to their old tricks, using the courts to delay consumer safeguards and taking advantage of every loophole available,” Pryor said.

“Unless we crack down on the multiple avenues Wall Street uses to exploit consumers, this problem will only get worse.” “Spinning oil prices higher and higher for huge profit is hurting consumers at the gas pump and threatening our nation’s economic recovery,” Pryor said.