WAUSAU - Not many people smile at the gas pump these days, but in Wausau, people were pretty happy paying just $1.84 per gallon.
The cheap gas wasn’t a fluke, or a handout, there was a message attached to the small price tag.
"We are reminding folks what it was like to fill up their cars before President Obama became President. At $1.84 a gallon, energy prices have nearly doubled," said Luke Hilgemann, with Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, “We are reminding them what it was like to fill up their cars before the President’s energy policies went into effect."
Americans for Prosperity are correct in saying gas averaged $1.84 per gallon when the President took office- but that's not the whole picture. Average gas prices peaked just above $4.00 per gallon- months before he took office. In 2009, with the economy on the verge of collapse, prices crashed before climbing back up- that’s what caused the brief drop in price to $1.84. (Click the link below for GasBuddy.com to see gas trends over the past 8 years)
But that doesn’t sway Americans for Prosperity.
"Gas prices are this way because of Barack Obama's failed economic policies, is that what you believe?"
"Absolutely…” said Hilgemann.
Drivers taking advantage of the deal had more moderate views.
“I think the President takes more credit and more blame than he should,” said Jerry Rhoden, a Wausau resident, “People need to realize that the President doesn't set gas prices. That was true under George W. Bush, that was true under Barack Obama, it'll be true under President Romney, or whatever the case may be."
"You really can't pinpoint that he's making the gas prices rise. You know, war, fighting over oil, all that type of stuff raises gas prices," said Jeffrey Gatlin, a driver from Chicago.
“I think he’s done a lot since he’s been president,” said Amanda Becker of Merrill, “Because the president before him put him in a situation where he had to fix a lot of things. So, it takes time to fix things.”
Plenty of drivers weren’t sure what to think.
“Do you agree with Americans for Prosperity that Barack Obama’s policies are responsible for high gas prices?”
“Yes,” said Brenda Burnett of Wausau.
"Why do you think its Barack Obama's policies?”
“Ummm, I don't know."
“You don't know why you think that, you just do?"
Shirley Kufeldt of Conover, a volunteer pumping gas with Americans for Prosperity, wholeheartedly agrees that the President is responsible for current high prices, but wasn’t sure why either.
"I don't know, I just want to go to a gas station and have prices that are a lot more realistic. I’m not a politician, I’m not an engineer, I don’t know…”
Even the gas station's owner said, he's in the dark.
"I really don't know more than what we read in the newspaper or see on the TV, I really don't know any more about it," said Tim Murphy, owner of the Mobil station on North Mountain Road in Wausau.
Volunteers with Americans for Prosperity pumped gas for 300 cars. They discounted 15 gallons worth of gas for each driver, down to $1.84 per gallon.
FactCheck.org says the organization was founded by David H. Koch of Koch Industries. Politifact.com has given statements made by the group mainly “false” “mostly false” and “pants on fire” ratings, and zero “true” or “mostly true” ratings.
Today Hilgemann said the group advocates pursuing “domestic energy options”, like drilling for oil in the United States. He says, “President Barack Obama came into office and he immediately took off our off-shore drilling ban, said that we can’t use our natural resources again, and the prices started skyrocketing.”
That’s not true either. President Obama banned off-shore drilling in December 2010- nearly 2 years after he took office- after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf Coast.
Currently national gas prices average $3.56 per gallon- that’s 56 cents less than it was in 2008, just before the near collapse of the economy, and Barack Obama taking office.
Gas Prices Over the Last 8 Years