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Strickland: Gas prices cost Ohio #036;500M more

One year can make a big difference and it is showing in the wallets of Ohioans.

That is the message delivered recently by U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Lucasville) when he released a study of gasoline prices in Ohio showing that Ohioans will spend more than $500 million more to fill up their cars this year during the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day than during the same period last year.

 "Ohioans are being forced to dig far too deep into their budgets just to get to and from work.  With Ohio's economy already suffering, losing over half a billion dollars to higher gasoline prices will be a major blow," Strickland said. "While we aren't the only state to experience high gas prices, this report shows just how detrimental the consequences are for our economy."

 The Bush Administration's Energy Information Administration does not expect price increases to slow down soon.  According to one of its reports, nationwide gas prices are expected to remain high through 2005 with a national average of $2.28 through September of this year, with a projected peak of $2.35 per gallon in May.  Similar prices are expected again next year.

 In the five Ohio cities focused on in the survey (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Youngstown), gas prices have risen between $0.74 and $0.80 in the 21 months since July 2003.  Youngstown was the hardest hit with an increase of 58 percent ($1.37 in July 2003 and $2.17 in April 2005), and Dayton fared relatively best with only a 50 percent increase ($1.47 in July 2003 and $2.21 in April 2004).

 The report points out that Ohioans are paying 21 percent more per gallon than they did just eight months ago, costing an average of  $2.19 per gallon. 

Looking specifically at the five cities studied, drivers in these cities will spend additional tens of millions of dollars over the summer months due to this year's higher gasoline prices.

 Statewide, the impact on Ohio's economy would be $178 million per month, totaling $532 million between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  During that period, the average Ohio driver will pay approximately $69 more per month at the pump compared to last year. 

The average two car family in Ohio will be hit for $140 per month this summer compared to last year.

Strickland noted that there are concrete steps the Bush Administration can take to bring down the price of oil at home right now and through the summer.

 "If the President would stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which is near capacity anyway, and release some of that oil into the U.S. market, we would see the price of a barrel of oil begin to drop," Strickland said.  In 2000, President Bill Clinton diverted oil from the SPR to the domestic market leading to a modest drop in the price of oil and gasoline. 

 "Just this week, President Bush finally kept his campaign promise and asked the Saudis to 'open the spigots.'  But he continues to divert thousands of barrels of oil from the marketplace into the SPR.  It's absurd and nonsensical."

 Strickland also believes an investigation is necessary to determine of there has been any collusion between oil companies to drive up gas prices during this high driving season.

Strickland also noted that the energy bill that recently passed the House does little to address gas prices, but includes billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil industry.

 "Something needs to be done, and the Bush Administration is offering nothing but handouts to the oil industry as it reaps windfall profits from American drivers," Strickland added. 

"These prices are hurting our economy, they're hurting our businesses, and they're hurting American families.  Ohioans deserve more than excuses, they deserve action from our president."