White House takes on gas price critics

March 12, 2012 at 7:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- The Obama administration defended President Barack Obama's energy initiatives against a backlash by U.S. voters over the high price of gasoline at the pump.

All options to address rising gasoline prices -- including tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- are on the table, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday during a news briefing on a progress report on energy security.

"[All] options are at the table because the president obviously feels the pain that the American people are facing with respect to gas prices," Salazar said.

Noting how gas prices can play into politics, he said "every time you have oil and gas price shocks occurring, you have all the political rhetoric in the country rising to the highest volume that it could be raised."

While all scenarios would be considered, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, "We're not going to talk about the SPR [Strategic Petroleum Reserve] with any specificity, and I would simply note that the president is very cognizant of the impact that the high prices at the pump are having on American families, as they struggle to make ends meet."

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday indicated 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of rising gas prices, while 26 percent approve.

AAA's Fuel Gauge Report said the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Monday was $3.801, up from $3.506 a month ago.

Obama was making sure the Justice Department reconstituted a working group intended to ensure no fraud, speculation or price-gouging was occurring because of the higher prices and will review other options.

Taking a swipe at Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, Carney said "it is a simple fact that any politician who pledges to the American people that he or she has a three-point plan to cut the price of gasoline to $2 or $2.50 is not on the level. You guys know it. Such a plan does not exist, at least not such a plausible plan."

Gingrich has said on several occasions he would lower pump prices to $2 or $2.50 a gallon.

The global price of oil is affected by a number of factors, some of which the United States can control and some of which it can't, Carney said.

"That's why the president is focused on the things that we can control," Carney said.

Carney said comments that the administration wasn't really doing anything to reduce pump prices to improve the acceptance of alternate energy sources were "categorically false."

"This president is absolutely committed to reducing, to doing everything we can to mitigate the effect of high gas prices on American families and to lower gas prices," Carney said. "What he 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."

An "all-of-the-above approach" -- including exploration and drilling for conventional energy sources, as well as solar, wind, biofuel and other alternative sources -- can limit or reduce effects of high gas prices on Americans, Carney said.

"It can also importantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil so that when there are fluctuations in the price of oil internationally, we are more insulated from the effect," Carney said.

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