President Obama is trying to ward off the inevitable political backlash that accompanies high gasoline prices by turning pain at the pump into an argument for clean-energy investment.
Speaking from Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale on Tuesday, Obama told an audience of students and faculty that continuing to spend money on developing and implementing clean-energy technology is the only way to bring down gas prices in the long run--something he presented as a feasible goal.
“Folks are out there dealing with gas that's 4 bucks a gallon,” Obama said. “Now whenever this happens, just like clockwork, you see politicians going in front of the cameras, and they say they have a three-point plan for 2-buck-a-gallon gas. The truth is, the only real solution to helping families at the pump in the medium and long term is clean energy. That's how we'll save families money. That's how we'll reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
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But Obama also stressed that America needs to develop its own technologies to reduce dependence on foreign oil, which is what causes price fluctuations--not an actual shortage in supply, he said. “The truth is that it’s a world commodity, and when world prices spike up like this, there aren’t a lot of short-term solutions. We have a medium- and long-term solution. One solution is to make sure we’re increasing production of U.S. oil.”
For some politicians, that means offshore drilling. For Obama, it means developing more-efficient biofuels, creating more demand for electric cars so that prices drop, and finding better, cheaper methods for extracting resources like natural gas.
“There’s not going to be a single silver bullet,” Obama said. “All of them are going to require investment.” He argued for government to lead the way in financing, as it did in developing the Internet, GPS, and bar codes, projects that are too costly for one company to shoulder alone.
The evolving oil argument is vintage Obama: tackle a problem when it’s at its worst and hope to avoid the fallout. He’s calling on politicians--and asking help from citizens--to deal with the problem of high gas prices instead of forgetting about it once they fall back to $2 a gallon.
He tried to remind the crowd that he still feels their pain.
“I’ll admit to you, it's been a while since I filled up at the pump,” Obama joked. “Secret Service doesn’t let me get out, and they don’t let me drive anymore. But it wasn’t that long ago that I did have to fill up my gas tank, and I know that if you got a limited budget, and you just watch that hard-earned money going away to oil companies that will once again probably make record profits this quarter, it’s pretty frustrating.”