Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Ron Paul’s claim on gas prices touches off fire

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul overstated the pain at the pump in Florida during the Feb. 22, 2012, Republican presidential debate.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul overstated the pain at the pump in Florida during the Feb. 22, 2012, Republican presidential debate.

Gas prices are going up, but a claim by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas during this week’s Republican presidential debate in Arizona that the cost had hit $6 a gallon in Florida that day proved to be an overstatement.

Our colleagues at PolitiFact Florida investigated Paul's claim, checking with AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report and a website that tracks prices by gas station so consumers can find the cheapest offerings. They found that although statewide averages are high by historical standards, they are lower than Paul's $6 figure. The day after the debate, the website, GasBuddy.com, said the average Florida price was $3.70, as did AAA.

Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA, blamed the rising gas prices on mounting tensions with Iran; economic instability in Europe; fluctuating expectations of economic growth in the United States; and seasonal refinery maintenance.

PolitiFact Florida found only two gas stations out of approximately 7,100 that came close to the price Paul cites. One was charging $5.79 a gallon and the other $5.69. And both are close to the beating heart of Florida tourism — the international airport that welcomes visitors to Walt Disney World.

"Florida residents know better than to get gas there; it's entirely to clip the tourists," said Gregg Laskoski, an analyst with GasBuddy. Citing those two stations "totally exaggerates the gas prices situation here in Florida," he said.

Paul's $6 claim was rated Pants on Fire.

PolitiFact has weighed other claims about the price of gas, including several implying that increases were the result of President Barack Obama's policies. The most recent fact-check, from PolitiFact Virginia, looked into Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen's claim that higher gas prices "are costing us about $30 more for each fill-up than ... when President Obama came into office."

Allen's number was generally correct, although the $30 figure applies only to vehicles with 18-20 gallon fuel tanks. At the time the fact-check was published — Feb. 20, 2012 — the price of a gallon of gas was nearly twice what it was when Obama took office.

But Allen's claim was rated Mostly True, because of the implication that Obama is to blame. Analysts told PolitiFact Virginia that presidents in general have little impact on gas prices.

Ben Brockwell — director of data, pricing and information services at the Oil Price Information Service — said that it's ridiculous to pin gas prices on any president, Republican or Democrat, and that fuel costs are a "market phenomenon."