"During the summer of 2008, American consumers faced gasoline prices that attained record high levels of over $4.00 per gallon, and oil prices of over $140 per barrel. These high prices have contributed to a downturn in economic growth, and an increase in inflation. They have forced consumers to make difficult choices concerning spending patterns, while their general economic well-being declined. The record prices have raised costs and adversely affected a wide variety of industries, including transportation, automobiles, and agriculture. Because there does not seem to be one, easily identifiable, factor that has caused these high prices, and because prices rose so quickly from mid-2007 to mid-2008, consensus on how to mitigate the situation through policy has been lacking. Calls for increased exploration and drilling in Alaska and currently restricted offshore areas, energy conservation, increased reliance on alternative energy sources, curbing speculation on oil futures markets, releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, suspending the federal tax on gasoline, and taxing the profits of oil companies have all been debated. This report examines the extent of price increases in gasoline and oil, focuses on the linkage between the two, and analyzes the causes of the price increases, and the likelihood that they might be reversed through market responses, or policy measures."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34625
U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://www.fpc.state.gov/