Gas prices loom large for new Congress

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The new Congress has yet to unveil its full agenda, but lobbyists and observers see one issue they'll likely confront: what to do about rising gasoline prices.

Pump prices have jumped during the last six weeks and some experts predict that they will continue to climb. Former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister predicts that increased worldwide demand and lack of production could push gas prices in the United States to $5 a gallon by 2012, The New York Times reported.

Several energy economists and forecasters disagree with that prediction, but it foreshadows the kind of rhetoric the new Congress will face. Oil companies and their trade group are rolling out a campaign to push for more production, said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's energy program.

"They're going to say we need an energy plan that focuses on fully developing U.S. energy," Slocum told the newspaper. "That means opening up more areas to offshore drilling and ensuring that we preserve the existing array of tax breaks and subsidies."

The national average price for gasoline hit $3.12 a gallon on Wednesday, up 21 cents from the post-Thanksgiving price on Nov. 29. Crude oil closed at $91.53 a barrel, up from $80.79 on Nov. 23.

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