(WASHINGTON) -- Consumers are starting to feel the pressure at the pump as the crisis in Libya rages on, but in Washington, there's little momentum and political will to engage in the deeply polarized energy debate -- and the script is unlikely to change.
The national average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline spiked to $3.52 on Monday, the highest price ever during the month of March, and ahead of the peak summer driving season.
But it has yet to translate into action on Capitol Hill. The White House has discussed the option of tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and has said it is looking into various options should a large scale supply disruption occur, but the action so far has been limited to rhetoric.
It's still too early to gauge the political impact, experts say, but both Republicans and Democrats need to take cautious steps in tackling this issue that is deeply divided along ideological lines.
According to one school of thought, the Libya crisis shows that the United States needs to boost its own offshore production for energy security; according to the other, the answer is to develop clean energy technology because of worries about the environmental costs of fossil fuel production and consumption.
There is little consensus on how to tackle the issue of energy security. From President Reagan to President Obama, most U.S. presidents have stated they want to see a more independent future for the United States when it comes to oil, but imports from foreign countries have only grown in recent decades.
Multiple efforts to enact comprehensive energy legislation that would boost clean energy and technological investment have collapsed, most recently last year when senators failed to find common ground.
Proponents of energy independence are hopeful that lawmakers will slip in some incentives, such as tax credits for hybrid cars, into bigger legislation, like they did in 2008, the last time oil prices had a sudden spike.
But with talk of economy and budget -- specifically cost-cutting measures -- dominating Capitol Hill, there's little impetus to revisit that subject, unless the pain is sustained.
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