Higher Gas Prices: Yes, or No?

Earlier this week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that he indeed told The Wall Street Journal in 2008 that

Somehow we have to find a way to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.

Now, with the damaging impact of rising gas prices on Obama’s approval rating, Chu claims a change of heart.

Senator Mike Lee (R, UT) asked Chu at that hearing

Are you saying that you no longer share the view that we need to figure out how to boost gasoline prices in America?

To which Chu responded

I no longer share that view.  When I became Secretary of Energy I represented the US government and I think that right now in this economic—very slow return—that we need to have, these prices well could affect the comeback of our economy and we’re very worried about that.  And so, of course, we don’t want the price of gasoline to go up.  We want it to go down.

Obama also was quick to downplay this rather dramatic shift.  At a news conference earlier this week, President Obama insisted to Fox News that it was foolish to think he wanted higher gas prices to wean Americans off fossil fuels, or for any other purpose.

You think the president of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher?  Is that—is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?”

Then, through his Press Secretary, Jay Carney, he insisted that he’d not instructed his Secretary to “clarify.”   No, Chu had made that earlier remark before he joined the administration, and so of course Republicans are taking it out of context to suggest it is administration policy.  This, though, means that Obama is claiming to have been utterly oblivious to Chu’s position when he selected Chu for Energy, that Chu’s preference for higher gasoline prices—to encourage Americans to shift to Obama’s “green” energy sources—couldn’t possibly have been among the reasons Obama selected Chu.

Never mind that Obama’s approval rating has slid to a nearby low of 41%, or that a new CBS News/New York Times poll indicates that 54% of Americans believe an American president can, indeed, do a lot about gasoline prices. That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

Since this change of heart is so plainly politically motivated, can we take Chu or Obama at their word on the matter?

On a separate but related note, Obama, through Carney, also tried to walk away from another allegation of his.  On Monday, Carney had said

What [Obama] is not willing to do is to look the American people in the eye and claim that there is a strategy by which he can guarantee the price of gas will be $2.50 at the pump.  Any politician who does that is lying, because…that strategy does not exist.

GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich responded with a challenge to Obama to debate the matter, and energy policygenerally, offering a number of venues for Obama to select from: an oil rig, a gas station, a refinery, a university campus.  Obama avoided the challenge and had Carney respond, instead,

I said yesterday that anybody who said that would be a liar.  And I shouldn’t have gone into motivations.  I should have said anybody who says that doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


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