President Barack Obama Thursday ridiculed his political opponents for rejecting his plans for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The president again sought public support for his energy policy, as rising gasoline prices threaten his re-election.
President Obama visited a community college near Washington Thursday, to once again make the case for what he calls his “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
He said opposition Republicans’ calls to reduce soaring gasoline prices by increasing drilling for domestic oil would not make the United States less dependent on oil from overseas.
“It cannot just be drilling for more oil," said President Obama. "We are drilling for more oil, but that cannot be all the solution. That is just part of the solution.”
Mr. Obama says he has dramatically increased the amount of domestic oil drilling in his three years in office. But he says other approaches are needed, including alternative sources of energy and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
He blasted Republican presidential candidates who dismiss his calls for increased reliance on wind and solar energy, comparing them to science skeptics of the past.
“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society," Obama said. "They would not have believed that the world was round.”
The president also said the forces driving up oil prices are beyond his control. He mentioned instability in the Middle East and growing international demand for gasoline as the main factors.
“You have got rapidly growing nations like China and India, and they are all starting to buy cars," he said. "They are getting wealthier. They want cars too. And that means the price of gas will rise.”
Chief oil analyst Tom Kloza, with the Oil Price Information Service, says swelling global demand is one of three factors driving up oil prices.
“Number one, rising demand in developing countries outside of the U.S. and Europe," said Kloza. "Number two, Iran and the notion that something could happen there that inhibits selling into the market. And number three, there is a lot of investment and a lot of speculation in oil.”
Kloza says there is not much a U.S. president can do to stop oil prices from rising, aside from threatening new regulations or limits on investors.
“If you put a little fear of God into the speculators and into the people who think that there is only an upside for crude oil or gasoline, prices could be tempered," he said.
The president later brushed off a question about whether he has decided to ease gasoline prices by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an emergency store of oil kept by the U.S. government.
A few minutes later, his spokesman, Jay Carney, denied reports that Mr. Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron had agreed, at their meeting Wednesday, to tap the Strategic Reserve.
“It is inaccurate, as was reported today, that any kind of agreement was reached on a course of action, or that any kind of timetable associated with a course of action was agreed to," said Carney. "Those reports are wrong. They are false.”
With the presidential election less than eight months away, public opinion polls show that voters are concerned about rising gasoline prices, and many blame the president.