ANNANDALE, Virginia — US President Barack Obama blamed oil "speculators" on Tuesday for soaring gasoline prices that risk weighing down the US recovery and could dampen his 2012 election hopes.
"It is true that a lot of what's driving oil prices up right now is not the lack of supply. There's enough supply. There's enough oil out there for world demand," Obama said at a campaign-style event not far from Washington.
"The problem is, is that oil is sold on these world markets, and speculators and people make various bets, and they say, 'you know what, we think that maybe there's a 20 percent chance that something might happen in the Middle East that might disrupt oil supply,'" he said.
"'So we're going to bet that oil is going to go up real high.' And that spikes up prices significantly," said the president, who recently launched his reelection campaign.
His comments came as oil prices rallied in New York, rebounding from the previous day's heavy losses as a weaker dollar boosted demand for dollar-priced commodities.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, surged $1.03 to finish at $108.15 a barrel, even as US gasoline prices hovered just below the $4-per-gallon mark after rising steadily since late 2008.
"We're now in a position where we can investigate if there's unfair speculation. We're going to be monitoring gas stations to make sure there isn't any price gouging that's taking advantage of consumers," promised Obama.
"But the truth is that it is a world commodity, and when prices spike up like this there aren't a lot of short-term solutions. What we have are medium- and long-term solutions," he said.
Obama's Republicans foes have pounded him over the rise in fuel prices, accusing him of putting on hold new oil drilling that could eventually lead to lower prices.