Story highlights

"It's not a political decision," says the senior White House adviser

Supply disruptions in North Africa and the Middle East are happening, David Plouffe says

Gas prices have risen for 16 straight weeks and have become an election issue

Washington CNN  — 

A senior White House adviser said Sunday that opening the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve to bring down gas prices remains an option.

David Plouffe, the senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “a lot of factors” go into a decision on tapping the oil reserve.

“It’s not a political decision,” Plouffe said, noting that in the past, disruptions in supply caused administrations to tap the oil reserve.

“There are supply disruptions right now in places like Sudan,” Plouffe said. “You still have oil not at its peak in places like Libya. Obviously the sanctions are working, the crippling sanctions the president has put in place are working in the Middle East and strangling the Iranian economy.”

At the same time, “there is no doubt that what we have to do in this country, we have to use less oil,” Plouffe added.

On Sunday, the AAA reported that the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline rose two-tenths of a cent to $3.894, marking the 16th consecutive increase, according to

Republicans have seized on the rising gas prices to criticize Obama’s energy policies, and the issue appears to be resonating with voters in an election year, according to polls.

In particular, Republican leaders and presidential candidates say Obama has stunted domestic oil production for environmental reasons.

Obama responds that U.S. oil production is at its highest level in eight years, and rejects the Republican argument that increased U.S. production alone can influence the price of oil, a global commodity.

The president also insists that the nation needs to also invest in other energy sources including alternative fuels as well as wind and solar power to compete in a growing worldwide clean energy market.