Obama hits the road to defend energy policies as political controversy swirls around gas prices

The Takeaway

Gas prices rose for the ninth straight day Sunday, pushing the average price for a gallon of gasoline to $3.83 — not far from July 2008’s record high of $4.11.

In fact, gas prices already average more than $4 a gallon in seven states. As gas prices have risen, they’ve also become a political talking point. President Barack Obama is setting off on a four-state tour to defend his energy policies, with stops in Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

Paul Tonko, a Democratic Congressman from New York, said Obama’s energy policy is “all-of-the-above.”

“I believe that is the best approach — making sure we continue to invest in research, that equals jobs; that develops alternatives for energy consumers; that enables us to use wisely the resources we have in that mix by promoting efficiency and conservation; and continuing to influence the situation with domestic-produced oil supplies,” Tonko said.

He also pointed out that domestic oil production is at an eight-year high. But even with that, because oil prices are largely set globally, domestic drilling will have a limited impact on the price at the pump. He said there’s no way we’ll get back to $2 a gallon gasoline any time soon.

“(OPEC) knows the optimum amount of supply in order to strengthen their outcome,” Tonko said. “We’re all subject to that supply and demand relationship. Demand world-wide has been up exponentially.”

But Republican critics argue Obama’s not doing enough. They’d like to see more offshore oil drilling and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as among ways to bring down the price of gasoline. And some liberal critics say Obama isn’t doing enough to move the country off of fossil fuels.

“The president has been tremendously strong in his investment in energy research. He has offered an historic, largest investment in energy for the nation,” Tonko said. “When he did that, it spurred all sorts of innovation, make sure we do focus not only on renewable resources but also on battery manufacturing.”

Tonko said we need to continue and expand those investments in order to achieve energy independence.

Republicans, though, are critical of many of the companies that have received funding through Obama’s program. They point to the scandal at Solyndra, which received government funding and was touted by Obama as an example of success — only to declare bankruptcy, shutdown and be raised by FBI agents looking for evidence of fraud.

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