Chu to Congress: We’re not interested in lowering gas prices

posted at 11:00 am on February 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Hey, at least Energy Secretary Stephen Chu gave an honest answer.  When asked by Rep. Alan Nunnelee whether the Obama administration wants to work to get gas prices to come back down, Chu replied that they’re not focusing on that — and that higher gas prices mean more of a push for the alternative energy sources the administration wants to push:

“We agree there is great suffering when the price of gasoline increases in the United States, and so we are very concerned about this,” said Chu, speaking to the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee. “As I have repeatedly said, in the Department of Energy, what we’re trying to do is diversify our energy supply for transportation so that we have cost-effective means.”

Chu specifically cited a reported breakthrough announced Monday by Envia Systems, which received funding from DOE’s ARPA-E, that could help slash the price of electric vehicle batteries.

He also touted natural gas as “great” and said DOE is researching how to reduce the cost of compressed natural gas tanks for vehicles.

High gasoline prices will make research into such alternatives more urgent, Chu said.

“But is the overall goal to get our price” of gasoline down, asked Nunnelee.

“No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy,” Chu replied. “We think that if you consider all these energy policies, including energy efficiency, we think that we can go a long way to becoming less dependent on oil and [diversifying] our supply and we’ll help the American economy and the American consumers.”

The Heritage Foundation jumped all over Chu’s comments:

As shocking as his remarks are, they shouldn’t come as a surprise. Chu has a long record of advocating for higher gas prices. In 2008, he stated, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Last March, he reiterated his point in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, noting that his focus is to ease the pain felt by his energy policies by forcing automakers to make more fuel-efficient automobiles. “What I’m doing since I became Secretary of Energy has been quite clear. What I have been doing is developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.”

One of those methods is dumping taxpayer dollars into alternative energy projects like the Solyndra solar plant. Another is subsidizing the purchase of high-cost electric cars like the Chevy Volt to the tune of $7,500 per car (which the White House wants to increase to $10,000). In both cases, those methods aren’t working. Solyndra went bankrupt because its product couldn’t bear the weight of market pressures, and Chevy Volts aren’t selling, even with taxpayer-funded rebates. What’s the president’s next plan? Harvesting “a bunch of algae” as a replacement for oil.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is seemingly doing everything it can to make paying for energy even more painful by refusing to open access to the country’s oil and gas reserves and blocking new projects that would lead to the development of more energy in America. Case in point: the president’s decision to say “no” to the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would have delivered hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from Canada to Texas refineries, while bringing thousands of jobs along with it.

And while Chu gave an honest answer that actually matches the actions taken by this administration, Heritage notes that Obama has offered nothing but double-talk on gas prices:

Sensing impending political fallout from the high cost of gas, President Obama last week spoke on the subject and attempted to deflect blame for the pain. He said that there is no quick fix to high gas prices and the nation cannot drill its way out of the problem, but as Heritage’s Nicolas Loris writes, the president ignored reality and dished out a series of half-truths. Among them, the president claimed oil production is its highest in eight years, that increasing oil production takes too long, and that oil is not enough. Loris writes that while production is up on private lands, unrealized production on federal lands and offshore could have yielded even more output, increasing supply and driving down costs. If the president had said “yes” to Keystone, oil could have reach the market quickly. And as for the president’s push for alternative energy, those sources simply cannot stand the test of the market.

Even before Chu spilled the beans, Democrats have begun pressing Obama to start taking gas prices seriously:

Congressional Democrats are ramping up pressure on President Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to prevent rising gas prices from threatening the economy and their election-year prospects.

They are growing anxious that the price of fuel could reverse their political fortunes, which had been improving due to signs of growth in the economy.

Republicans have hammered Democrats on the price spike, repeatedly noting that gas prices — now at $3.72 per gallon for regular — have doubled since Obama won the White House.

I guess Democrats in Congress don’t see this as a feature rather than a bug in Obama’s energy policies.  The RNC came out with a video slamming Obama for high gas prices, but I suspect they’ll be rushing a new video to publication featuring Chu’s “who cares” attitude.  Otherwise, this is a pretty effective 1-minute spot, and it might start showing up on TV broadcasts soon:


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