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Many small business owners say they won’t survive further gas price hikes

While politicians argue about how best to halt rising gas prices, business owners just want relief. And fast.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council reported today that 72 percent of small business owners say that increasingly high gas prices are impacting their business, and a majority are also dissatisfied with the overall direction of federal policies meant to help the economy.

The survey of 304 small business owners was conducted in late February before gas prices had reached today's highs of $3.80 per gallon. Even then, 43 percent said their business would not survive if energy prices continue to remain high or increase further.

The SBEC suggests that advancing pro-energy policies, including the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, is the best route the government could take now to help small businesses. "The U.S. cannot allow world events, supply disruptions and global demand surges to control the fate of our economy or global competitiveness. We must take full advantage of the natural resources we have been blessed with as a nation and move forward on a genuine 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy," said SBEC President Karen Kerrigan.

In an essay in Politico earlier this month, Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO) called gas prices one of the biggest threats to an economic recovery. The 40-cents-per gallon jump over the last month, he said:

"…presents a significant burden for small businesses, already struggling to make payroll, deal with regulations and figure out how to comply with the health care law. …So, what's the solution? We must aggressively, and safely, increase our nation's domestic energy production. While some Washington bureaucrats believe the only answer lies in a peaceful solution to Middle East unrest, the fact is we could address this here by using our own resources."

Not surprisingly, Graves' Democratic counterparts advocate a different approach. They're blaming excessive oil speculation for jacking the price as much as $0.56 per gallon, and say speculators should be reined in. Congressman Joe Donnelly (D-IN) had this to say in a blog post today on The Hill:

"...the supply of oil is higher than it was three years ago, and demand is at the lowest level since 1997. We can slow the rising cost of gasoline in part by addressing speculation… We need to take immediate action to rein in oil speculation and ensure that Americans aren't being cheated."

To be sure, small business owners would like to see less political squabbling and some immediate action.  The SBE Council survey found that the fuel prices are forcing some small business owners to cut employee hours, while 40 percent have raised prices and reconsidered their hiring plans.

How is the price of gas affecting your business? Have you raised prices or made other changes? Are you being affected by vendors' climbing prices? And what do you think of the solutions to this crisis that your elected officials are proposing?

Tell us about it in the comments, or on Twitter #SmallBizVote.

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