NEW YORK — Oil rose above $108 a barrel Tuesday as President Barack Obama won the support of key Republicans for a punitive U.S. military strike against Syria.
Meanwhile, Americans headed back to work and school after bidding farewell to what AAA says was the third most expensive driving season on record.
Obama said Tuesday that he’s confident Congress will authorize a military strike against the regime of President Bashar Assad to respond to an attack in the Damascus suburbs last month that the U.S. says killed at least 1,429 civilians. Congress could vote as early as next week, after it returns from summer break.
Obama won the support of House Speaker John Boehner, who said that the United States has “enemies around the world that need to understand that we’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior.” House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, R-Va., also gave his backing to military action. But Congress is still divided, with some Democrats and Republicans saying they won’t give the president authorization to use force.
Benchmark crude for October delivery gained 89 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $108.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Nymex floor trading was closed Monday because of Labor Day. Brent, the benchmark for international crudes, rose $1.35, or 1.2 percent, to $115.68 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
While Syria is not a major oil producer, it straddles a region that is. The possibility of a wider conflict, one that could interrupt production and shipping routes in the region, has pushed oil prices higher in the past week.
Besides the uncertainty over developments in the Middle East, oil prices have been supported in recent days by stronger-than-expected manufacturing data from China and the European Union.
At the gas pump, the average retail price for a gallon of gasoline stayed at $3.59 over the weekend, after jumping Thursday and Friday because of last week’s spike in oil prices.
Auto club AAA said gas prices this summer driving season — lasting from Memorial Day through Labor Day — averaged $3.58 a gallon. That’s 3 cents more than a year ago, and the third highest behind 2008’s average of $3.95 and 2011’s average of $3.65.
AAA also said it’s tough to predict where gas prices go from here. Normally, pump prices decline with the end of summer driving season. But tensions in Syria, Egypt and Libya, as well as the chance of a hurricane in the U.S., make it “impossible to say whether this will be a typical year,” said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in an emailed report.
Gas prices in September 2012 decreased about 5 cents per gallon, AAA said.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline dropped 3 cents to $2.86 per gallon.
— Heating oil rose 1 cent to $3.15 per gallon.
— Natural gas climbed 9 cents to $3.67 per 1,000 cubic feet.