* Republicans draw battle lines over gas prices
* Gasoline prices above $4 a gallon in Calif.
* Oil prices at nine-month high
(Recasts, adds details, background)
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Feb 21 U.S. gasoline prices
surged nearly 7 cents in the past week, the U.S. government
said, as steadily rising fuel prices jumped to the forefront in
the U.S. election campaign.
The national price of unleaded gasoline climbed 6.8 cents to
an average $3.59 a gallon in the last week, the Energy
Information Administration said on Tuesday in its weekly survey.
With the 2012 campaign season in full swing, Republicans are
criticizing the Obama administration's energy policies as a key
reason for rising prices at the pump.
Gasoline prices have already passed the $4 mark in
California after jumping 20 cents in the past week on the idling
of the third-largest refinery on the West Coast.
When gasoline prices surged to a record $4.11 a gallon
nationally during the summer of 2008, Republicans tapped
consumer anger and forced Congress to lift a decades-old ban on
oil drilling off the east and west coasts.
With gasoline prices again on the rise, Republicans have
blasted the Obama administration for pulling back on efforts to
begin drilling in the areas where the ban was lifted and for
delaying the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The White House has defended itself against these charges by
noting that U.S. oil production has climbed significantly since
Oil production in the United States is projected to reach
5.83 million barrels per day this year, the highest level since
The administration has also touted a so-called "all-in"
energy strategy that they say offers support for traditional
fossil fuels as well as renewables.
As the summer driving season approaches, oil prices show no
sign of abating, however.
U.S. oil prices, which account for most of the price of
gasoline, reached a nine-month high near $106 a barrel on
Tuesday as Iran supply fears and a second bailout for Greece
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jim Marshall)