With the national average of gas prices hitting $3.65 a gallon, nearing $6 in some parts of the country, and poised to head even higher, America’s families are wondering when the bleeding at the pump will stop. But for Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, those steep prices aren’t even a concern. In fact, he says his goal is not to get the price of gasoline to go down.
Chu delivered those stunning remarks in testimony before Congress yesterday. When Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) asked Chu whether it’s his “overall goal to get our price” of gasoline lower, Chu said, “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy.”
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.
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.
There are steps the president and Congress can and should take today to bring down the cost of energy. Namely, end the de facto moratorium on drilling, open offshore areas that are off-limits to drilling, place a 270-day limit on environmental reviews for energy projects on federal lands, remove regulatory delays, and approve Keystone.
As Loris writes, “The market would respond if Congress and the Obama Administration allowed it to work.” But Secretary Chu and the Obama Administration are evidently not interested in market-based reforms that bring down the cost of energy. Instead, they’re bent on keeping energy costs high in order to placate the environmental left. And now Americans are paying the price.