President Obama said Thursday that only a long-term energy strategy can help bring down rising gas prices, and he mocked Republicans for seeking to turn higher prices at the pump into an election year issue.
"Last week, the lead story in one newspaper said, 'Gasoline prices are on the rise, and Republicans are licking their chops,'" Obama said at the University of Miami. "Only in politics do people root for bad news. You pay more, they're licking their chops."
Obama predicted Republicans would soon unveil a "three-point plan for $2 gas," and "I'll save you the suspense: Step one is to drill, and step two is to drill. And then step three is to keep drilling." Obama called it "a bumper sticker" and "not a strategy to solve our energy challenge."
"That's a strategy to get politicians through an election," the president said.
Republicans, including the presidential candidates, do plan to campaign in part on higher gas prices, attributing them to Obama's regulatory policies. Their examples range from a past moratorium on oil drilling on the Gulf Coast to a refusal to sign off on the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
"The president has time and again sided with his liberal base over American families," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans have decided to focus on rising gas costs to attack Obama's energy policies, while Democrats highlight the GOP's ties to the oil and gas industry in an effort to deflect criticism during what figures to be another summer of high fuel prices.
Wednesday, the House Democrats' campaign operation targeted 60 House Republicans in news releases highlighting how much each of the lawmakers has received in campaign donations from oil and gas interests.
"Gas prices are one of the most visible economic indicators for Americans," said Republican Party spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, "and it's clear Team Obama knows they have a problem."
The website GasBuddy.com says Americans pay an average of $3.59 for a gallon of gas; a year ago, the figure was $3.23. Three years ago, gas prices averaged less than $2 a gallon.
The only real solution to bringing prices down, Obama said in Miami, is a comprehensive strategy that includes conservation, fuel-efficiency standards and new sources of energy, as well as increased oil and gas production. "We've got to have a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy," he said.
Industry insiders say the president could be doing a lot more. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said the administration restricts where oil and natural gas development may occur, leasing less often, shortening lease terms, going slow on permit approvals and increasing or threatening to increase industry's development costs through higher taxes, higher royalty rates, higher minimum lease bids and more regulations.
"There may not be a silver bullet today," Gerard said, "but if we take action today, we will resolve this issue for the long term and put us back to where we need to be to put downward pressure on the price of gasoline."
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