This weekend, Energy Secretary Steven Chu appeared on Fox News Sunday and host Chris Wallace asked him about his desire in 2008 for Americans to punitively pay more at the pump in order to wean them off of gasoline. Shockingly, Chu did not walk back his comments as he has attempted to do in the past. In fact, he embraced the strategy noting that his focus is to ease the pain felt by his energy policies by forcing automakers to make more fuel-efficient automobiles:
WALLACE: In that regard, in 2008 you supported ramping up gas prices to coax Americans into more green energy cars and other uses, being more fuel efficient. You said this — and let’s put it on the screen — “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Where it is now more than $10 a gallon. In that sense, is the gas spike an opportunity for more green energy?
CHU: Well, what I said — what I’m doing since I became secretary of Energy has been quite clear. What I have been doing is developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.
We have been very focused in the Department of Energy on that. And, in fact, the entire administration has been very focused on that.
So, the increasing of the mileage standards is one way of doing this. A very concerted effort in electric vehicles, where we think within reach, within maybe four or five years, we could be testing batteries that can allow us to go 200, 300 miles on a single charge in a mass-marketed car.
WALLACE: I understand all that, and that is certainly part of your effort. But is the spike in gas prices — does that also help in making us more energy-efficient?
CHU: Well, the recent spike in gasoline prices following that huge spike in 2007, 2008 is a reminder to Americans that the price of gasoline over the long haul should be expected to go up just because of supply and demand issues. And so we see this in the buying habits of Americans as they make choices for the next car they buy.
It is increasingly clear that the Obama Energy Department is not overly concerned with near-term high gas prices. If they were, they would not be cutting off our domestic oil supply and imposing costly regulations on refiners during these difficult economic times.
In fact, it appears Secretary Chu considers his department to be more focused on auto manufacturing than energy production.
Secretary Chu suggests the energy policy of the United States should be focused on forcing automakers to produce more expensive vehicles that get better mileage. This is not an energy policy based in reality or the purpose of the department itself. Most Americans cannot afford the Obama-endorsed $40,000 Chevy Volt, nor will buying a much more expensive vehicle “take the pain out of high gas prices.”
Simply telling Americans there is nothing to do but sell your car and buy an expensive new one, while cutting off domestic supply and purposefully making gasoline more expensive is a dangerous and reckless policy amidst a struggling economic recovery. We can only hope President Obama abandons this strategy and recognizes the economic pain Americans are feeling now, in the present. A jobless recovery may continue until Secretary Chu’s roadblocks are removed.