The Christian Social Union (CSU) opened a two-day party caucus in Nuremberg in preparation for general elections on Sept. 18. In his opening speech, party chair Edmund Stoiber criticized the center-left coalition for failing to react to skyrocketing gasoline prices. The opposition candidate from 2002 asked Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to consider lowering the current "eco-tax" at the pump. Gas prices have been rising for a year. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, prices per liter have hit an all-time high of 1.42 euros ($1.76) per liter (1/4 gallon). The head of the sister party of the Christian Democrats also threw his whole-hearted support behind CDU chancellor candidate Angela Merkel. "Angela Merkel knows that she can rely on me and the CSU," Stoiber said. "And we know that we can rely on Angela Merkel and the CDU." CSU general secretary Markus Söder prepared his party, based in Bavaria, for the final spurt to the elections in two weeks. He said it was the task of the CSU to convince undecided voters that a coalition of CDU/FDP (Free Democrats) coalition was the only alternative to an alliance of Social Democrats, Greens and the Left Party.