President Bush Friday said that the tripling of the price of oil since he became president in 2001 is a wake-up call that should hasten the development of alternative sources of energy.
At a White House news conference, President Bush said he saw no evidence that oil companies are manipulating prices. But he called on U.S.-based multinationals to pump their multi-billion-dollar profits back into new investment to help bring down gasoline prices.
He also said higher gasoline prices should spur the demand for new technologies that would lessen America's dependence on imported oil.
"The American people have got to understand that we're living in a global economy," he said. "So when China and India demand more oil, it affects the price of gasoline at the pump."
Despite record high gasoline prices, the U.S. economy registered impressive four point eight percent growth in the first three months of this year. It's the best performance in over two years. Mr. Bush also called attention to recent data showing that consumer confidence has reached its highest level since 2002.
"This confidence is largely driven by the many jobs being created in our country, 5.1 million since August 2003," he said. "This good news cannot be taken for granted. With gas prices on the minds of Americans, we need to keep our foot on the pedal of this strong economy."
While U.S. growth rebounded sharply from the more subdued level of less than two percent in the fourth quarter, economists expect growth to moderate to a three percent pace later this year. Higher gasoline prices depress economic activity since consumers have less disposable income to spend. The doubling of gasoline prices over the past three years has also boosted inflationary pressure, which the central bank seeks to contain through higher interest rates.