Nearly every industry analyst will tell you that there's no way the federal government could directly control the market price of gasoline, however, a new Gallup poll reveals that 42 percent of Americans think otherwise. More specifically, those respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." 53 percent did not agree and 5 percent had no opinion.

The White House obviously denies the claim and is taking the let's-laugh-it-off tactic. WH Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters that "the one thing I have been amused by is the attempt by some people to say that the president has been rigging gas prices, which would give him the kind of magisterial clout unknown to any other human being."

Industry officials and analysts say there are a plethora of reasons for the rapid decline in prices which include the end of driving season, the re-emergence of cheaper winter fuel blends, growing domestic inventories of fuel, the calming of tensions with Iran as well as the competition among gas station owners to post the most attractive prices on the block.

Now, if you're a conspiracy theorist yet you don't believe the government has the capacity to manipulate fuel prices, then this is the next obvious question: is it possible that oil companies are reducing their prices in order to help Republicans? Department of Energy analyst Joanne Shore's response is simply "What company in their right mind would step forward to kill their profit?" Personally, I'd be more inclined to believe that the major oil companies could form a cohesive oligopoly or secret agreement than I would believe that Bush has the ability to control the oil market, however, I'm still not convinced on this specific matter given the nature of complex forces at play. I also happen to work closely with a couple groups of energy futures traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange and to have seen the volatility swings and chaos upclose over the last few months was simply astounding.

I'm usually game to entertain most conspiracy theories (and even have a bunch of my own), however, it's going to take pretty hard evidence for me to believe that there are a small group of minds who actually manipulated a steep drop in the country's gas prices for the fall elections (though, I would agree that the President certainly has an indirect effect by the choices he makes in geopolitical matters). What do you think? If you need some guidance into how gas pricing works, check out Autoblog's link to howstuffworks.com on the subject.

[Source: Associated Press via MSNBC]

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