Republicans grill energy secretary over statements about gas prices
March 8th, 2012
08:35 PM ET
2 years ago

Republicans grill energy secretary over statements about gas prices

Washington (CNN) – Energy Secretary Steven Chu insisted to lawmakers Thursday that the Obama administration wants gas prices lower.

But at a hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, he didn't get much of a chance to explain, as Republican members continued to confront him with statements he and his boss, President Barack Obama, made prior to the 2008 election.

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Chu was interviewed in September 2008 by the Wall Street Journal, which quoted from that interview the following December after Chu was named as a prospective energy secretary.

"Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," the Journal reported Chu as saying. At the time, Chu was Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Rep. John Scalise of Louisiana read that quote to Chu and asked him, "Did you say that?"

Chu responded by trying to talk about administration policy, but Scalise interrupted immediately, "You said it or you didn't, it's been attributed, it's not the first time you've heard this, because many people have asked if it's been attributed to you, and many people have asked you about it, and I've heard you confirm that you said it."

Chu eventually responded, "I said something similar."

Scalise went on to ask what the prices of gasoline are in Europe and Chu responded by trying to talk about everything he has done since taking office.

Scalise then gave a figure above $8 per gallon, but Chu still did not answer the question directly.

The price of gasoline in Europe is more than twice what Americans pay at the pump.

As several other Republicans did earlier in the hearing, Scalise referred to another quote in which Obama, a senator at the time, suggested that he would prefer a gradual increase in gas prices to around $4 per gallon. Conservatives have used these two quotes in recent weeks to suggest that the administration has an unspoken policy to raise gasoline prices.

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, who also went after Chu over the two quotes, attacked Obama for his response to that charge in his Tuesday conference this week.

"This administration from Day One said, 'We want high gas prices.' Guess what, they're going to get them. The president was asked (about the charge).'Oh I don't want high gas prices now because I'm up for re-election.' You know what was the unsaid part of that statement? 'But I don't mind if they go up after the election.'"

All these quotes, whether rendered accurately or not, have gone viral on the Internet in conservative blogs and forums.

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Filed under: Energy • House • President Obama • Republicans
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Former Republican, now an Independent

    These current republicans are all hot air and no substance, so their best tactic is to interrupt people and not let them make their points. This reminds me of their mentors Bill O'Reilly and Shaun Hannity on the Republican Television Network.

    March 8, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  2. Larry L

    Republicans are proud to deny and even fear science. They tell their voters they believe the Earth to be less than 6000 years old. They know that's ridiculous but they say it to get votes from the ignorant – their base.

    They refuse to look at the math regarding global warming and take the money from big oil to cloud the issue with lies and ignorance. Gas prices are related to world affairs rather than politics. Republican talk about gas prices is really about politics, a dislike for any environmental protection, and dishonesty.

    March 8, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  3. vic , nashville ,tn

    “If Americans want lower gas prices, cut back. Sell those SUVs, ride a bike if you can. If every one of us bought ten percent less gasoline, prices would fall fast. – Bill O’Reilly in 2008, Fox News.
    Republicans please listen to your spoke person Bill O’Reilly

    March 8, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  4. gt

    sure they do... thats why obama killed keystone ... that makes sence....ugh

    March 8, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  5. Kris Craig

    It always annoys me when politicians waste taxpayer money to essentially film a live campaign commercial on CSPAN.

    These Republicans are twisting and distorting statements taken way out of context. What Chu was referring to was the question of how to respond to the world's dwindling supply of oil. He simply echoed what numerous other economists have consistently said; that the most effective way to significantly reduce fossil fuel usage in this country would be to adopt gas prices similar to those in Europe.

    That doesn't mean that Chu wants that to actually happen. In fact, neither he nor Obama wants that. They were merely acknowledging the harsh reality we're facing and echoing the consensus among economists worldwide.

    March 8, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  6. Jun Ni

    Do the Repulicans believe that the recent gas price increase is due to Dr. Chu said something 4 years ago?

    March 8, 2012 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  7. Jun Ni

    Should the congress try to find the solutions, not just use every opportunity to attack people? For the Gas price, it is quite clear the loose talks of war with Iran from the GOP contributes a lot;

    March 8, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  8. GonzoinHouston

    Last time I looked, America was a capitalist, free-market economy. In such an economy the way to get people to use less of something is to make it more expensive. It's called conservation, and it is an important part of any realistic energy plan. We need increased drilling, nuclear, solar, wind, natural gas, and yes, conservation. The alternative is we keep supporting one of the most oppressive countries on earth, which supports terrorism and the spread of radical Islam. I for one am tired of it.

    Conservatives don't have the guts for real conservation.

    March 8, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  9. Independent Liberal

    The Right-wing has some nerve, they protected their beloved Bush when gas prices were $4 and over in Nov. and Dec. 2008, "oh Pres. Bush can't be held responsible for high gas prices", politicians can't control gas prices, and so on...but NOW President Obama can control them? Really? How about we stop being so dependent on oil? We only have about2%-3% of the world's oil yet we use 20%, can't people do simple math?

    March 8, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  10. Bugs

    WHy doesn't the media play over and over agin this little jerk saying he wants $14 gas prices. Thats reporting, not covering up for idealogical view points. The more this adminsitration does, the more the poorest amongst us get a lower quality of life. Oh but its okay, we will give you enough money and programs to help bring you out of poverty into just plain misery.

    March 8, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  11. focusonjobs

    These people are a joke; they know gas in Europe is 8 dollars a gallon because it’s TAXED!!!!! Gas prices are going up here because of greed.

    March 8, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  12. Wylie-Mike

    Gas Prices?
    Hmmm ... that is a very limited focus.
    What about the cost of plastics, pharmaceutics, road asphalt, etc ... going up with the cost of oil?
    And they're pushing a 'Highways' Bill through congress. Where are they going to get cost effective fuel to run the equipment and pave the roads? Last I knew they're aren't any Solar Powered Earth Movers, etc ... Not to mention all those new tires that will be needed for all those new green energy cars.
    The President's and Senate's efforts to get Americans to pay its portion of the world's fair share in gasoline is figuratively shooting ourselves in the foot. They really need to read the Essay "I, Pencil" about what goes into making a pencil. Or even their Green Energy components.

    March 8, 2012 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  13. Mike

    Okay, I buy it that Obama and Chu want generally higher gasoline prices. The question is why? Could it be because the US has the lowest prices for gasoline of all of the 'western' nations. Could it be that the average American uses more than double the amount of gasoline as the average European? Could it be that the current American modus operandi of "drive a big car, burn a lot of fossil fuel, but feel like a big shot" is not only unsustainable but unhealthy? I swear, some Americans act like children with toys. Thank goodness for the intelligent and enlightened in the USA. Because they are the only ones that are preventing the hard-right from pushing the US back to the 1950's.

    March 8, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  14. James

    Another in a long line of Obama look alikes–He should be ashamed–

    March 8, 2012 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  15. KarlQ

    Seriously. Do any of you in the press have any reason to think this President and his people are credible?

    Frankly, when I look at the explosion of drilling, profits and prosperity on PRIVATE land, and then look at our debt and crisis overseas, the ONLY way we're going to return to prosperity ...and maybe the only way we avoid the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse ...is to drill, frack, pipe, refine and export. When resources on public land are extracted, we all share in the royaltie checks! ...our natural resources is the only account left for our nation to draw upon!

    Why are we waiting? ...for the final and definitive proof CO2 is NOT poison? ...we're going to be too dead to care if we keep racing toward WW-III by starving the masses the way we are now!

    March 8, 2012 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    We need to be realistic that gasoline isn't going to last forever. We need to have other fuel sources that are renewable. The idea that we can pay low gas prices is going to come to an end at some point. We need to encourage mass transit to reduce the need for people to drive everywhere.

    March 8, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  17. aaron

    Looks like the entire DC crowd is in on gas price gouging. Don't be fooled by Repubs...they obviously want their oil company croonies to continue ripping off American consumers. They're just as bad....Repubs are the ones fighting tooth and nail to keep the billions in tax subsidies in place for oil companies. If the Dems or Repubs wanted to do something about the high prices, they'd get off their lazy, overbribed butts and put an end to speculation in the oil market.

    March 9, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  18. Fla Pete

    Remember your oil man Bush,he wasn't bashfull about rising oil prices,filling his pockets with green backs.He even half heartedly went over to Saudi Arabia to speak with OPEC,they saw right thru his BS and sent him packing with his tail between his legs..Under Pres.Clinton,gas was $1.85 -.Then when Bush took over he ripped away regulations on commodity brokers speculating in the petroleum industry in 2000,look it up and gas rose to well over $4.00 in no time flat.So don't you hypocritical bastards point fingers ,when you yourself,whos deregulating started this mess, have no way to fix it,you tried,remember.Your don't do what I do,do what I say attitude is really getting beyond idiotic...

    March 9, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  19. enuff

    JUST ONCE it would be nice if an entire quote would be used rather than just jumping on one sentence and skewing the true message.

    March 9, 2012 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  20. Jane

    All these Republicans should go to YouTube and watch the footage from Fox when Bush was in office and they were all falling all over themselves on one show, explaining how "the President has no power over the price of gas", "it's not fair to blame Pres. Bush; he has no say in the posting of gas prices, it's market speculation etc., yada yada." NOW, it the President's fault. Stupidity is temporary (sometimes) but film is forever, you nimrods.

    March 9, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  21. Martin Walters Seattle

    Regardless which political party is in office the opposing party always bombastically plays the blame game on the price of gas at the pump. ‘Yawn’ Its common knowledge that speculators, supply and demand dictate the price of oil. Why either party plays us like this reflects on how informed they think we are I guess.

    March 9, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  22. normajean @ verizon ,com

    What Obama said as senator is no more important today than what any of todays prsidential candidates said four years ago!!!. In fact what the others said could be even more telling considering the way they are acting now!!!!! There is nothing new about what the Repulicants have been doing since Obama first came on the scene. They have been out to get him and ..I DO BELIEVE they are failing in the attempt. "BOUT TIME!!!!!

    March 9, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  23. thomas

    Consumption Tax .

    What the GOP wont tell you.

    March 9, 2012 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  24. CaliforniaBC

    SO is that what GW said too, "We want higher gas prices"? Because if that is the the claim of motivation these Republicans are making then they have to ask it about GW too cause gas got much more expensive than it did under Obama and it steadily rose through his presidency.

    Plus, why don't we ask these GOPers HOW they think this "unspoken policy" is actually operating to increase the GLOBAL price of oil

    I swear everything we hear lately that these Republicans are doing speaks to a very desperate situation for them. They are reaching for ANYTHING no matter how small it is to create a crisis or issue out of it. The prime example is the college video released last night.

    Ya gotta just laugh at them.

    March 9, 2012 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  25. Roland

    Algae fuel was tested and proven to be a very effective fuel source on ordinary car in 2008. We should continue to work, research, mass produce and use algae fuel as a substitute to foreign oil.

    March 9, 2012 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
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