* Republicans attack Obama's energy policies
* Rising gasoline prices could affect presidential race
(Adds Zogby poll, fresh Carney quote)
By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Republicans turned up
the heat on President Barack Obama's energy policies on Tuesday,
hammering an election-year issue that they view as his weak spot
amid rising gasoline prices.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top
Republican in Congress, wrote to Obama to urge him to approve a
controversial oil pipeline and fulfill a promise of an "all of
the above" approach to ease dependence on foreign oil.
Republicans have intensified their attacks on the Democratic
president's energy policies in recent days, blaming them for
higher pump prices that could hurt Obama's re-election prospects
in the Nov. 6 face-off against the eventual Republican
"To provide greater energy security, I would urge you to
change course and expeditiously approve the pipeline permit as
soon as the application has been filed," Boehner said in a
letter to Obama, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
However, the White House said it was wrong to suggest that
TranCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL crude oil
pipeline could quickly help bring down prices at the pump.
"That's the kind of empty promise that politicians make when
we face hikes in the global price of oil that is really
dishonest," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
Gas prices rose 7 cents in the week to Feb. 24 to a national
average of $3.60 a gallon and in some parts of the
country are much higher, creating a drag on household budgets
that could sap an economic recovery that appears to be underway.
A poll published by IBOPE Zogby International found 54
percent of those surveyed had cut back on driving as a result of
high gas prices and almost half had trimmed spending. The poll
found people were somewhat more inclined to blame Congress for
the increase in fuel costs than Obama, but the public's anger
still represents a potent campaign weapon.
Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said he was
"concerned about the impact it has on the administration,"
acknowledging a threat to Obama's re-election prospects that has
been aggressively seized by his opponents.
Republican candidates vying to face Obama in November have
vowed to do a better job of holding gas prices down, and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, accused the White House of
trying to deflect blame for increased pain at the pump.
"Make no mistake: the rising price of gasoline isn't simply
the result of forces we can't control. It is, to a large extent,
the result of a vision that this president laid out even before
he was elected to office," McConnell said in a Senate speech.
The White House has emphasized record levels of domestic oil
production. But Boehner argued that production flowed from
policies put in place by Republican President George W. Bush,
and called on Obama to back legislation to expand domestic
Obama last month rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which
was to run through environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska
from the U.S.-Canadian border.
On Monday, the White House said it welcomed a fresh proposal
by TranCanada to build a southern leg of the pipeline and refile
an application for the northern part of the route.
That may help blunt the Republican attacks over the
pipeline, but Boehner said the country could not afford to take
"The current turmoil in the Middle East and its effect on
gas prices reminds us how dangerous it is to rely so much on
that region for our energy supply," he said. "We can't wait for
this project to get started."
(Reporting By Alister Bull; Editing by Paul Simao and
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