President Obama understands that rising gasoline prices are a problem for financially strapped Americans--and a political problem for him--but he also believes there is no quick fix, White House advisers tell me.
Faced with increasing media coverage of the issue and sharp criticism from Republicans, Obama says he sympathizes with people who are struggling to pay for gas. At the same time, he is urging congressional action on his long-term agenda that includes conservation and developing energy at home.
The Republican presidential candidates are hammering Obama over gas prices. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said Tuesday in Phoenix that Obama actually wants higher gas prices so Americans drive less and thereby reduce carbon emissions, all in order to control global warming. "
The President of the United States, when he ran for office, talked about how he could [accept] higher prices for gasoline," Santorum said. "Why? Well, because he was concerned about global warming, and they needed to reduce CO2 emissions. Which means you need to drive less. And the only way we could force Americans to drive less was to make it expensive for you to drive."
Repeatedly questioned about gas prices at his daily briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said there are "no magic solutions," but Obama remains concerned about the impact of rising gas prices on everyday Americans. Obama is expected to explain his views about energy-related issues in a speech Thursday in Miami.
The question is whether his long-term approach will be enough to satisfy motorists and voters. A senior administration official told me that Obama will stay the course on his long-range ideas for energy development and conservation and won't be stampeded into doing something immediate that might look good politically but won't solve the problem.
White House advisers predict that the media will do what it always does in covering a spike in oil prices: Run a series of breathless stories on the problem, focus on the hardships and inconvenience caused by rising gasoline prices and heavily cover politicians who offer snap solutions. However, the advisers say that administration experts have studied the problem and have concluded that there's little a president can do to ease the immediate burden, and that any emergency "solutions" would not be "plausible."
One official predicted that Republicans will also increase their demands for approval of the Keystone XL cross-country pipeline, a controversial project blocked by the administration. But the official said it would take 45 years for the pipeline to deliver the same amount of fuel that would be conserved by the fuel efficiency standards Obama is proposing.