President Obama suggested in 2008 that he didn’t mind having higher prices at the pump, as long as the sticker shock to consumers wasn’t too sudden.
The White House is currently insisting Obama is doing what he can to keep the lid on gasoline prices, while blaming uncontrollable market forces for the increases.
But in a June 10, 2008 interview on CNBC with John Harwood, Obama clearly indicates that his problem with the high prices prevailing then was not that they are high, but that they ramped up too quickly. He talks about ways to mitigate the impact of high prices instead of ways to reduce them and suggests that the increase could be beneficial, saying, “we can come out of this stronger.”
From the interview:
HARWOOD: As difficult as this is for consumers right now, is, in fact, high gas prices what we need to let the market work, a line incentive so that we do shift to alternative means of energy?
Sen. OBAMA: Well, I think that we have been slow to move in a better direction when it comes to energy usage. And the president, frankly, hasn’t had an energy policy. And as a consequence, we’ve been consuming energy as if it’s infinite. We now know that our demand is badly outstripping supply with China and India growing as rapidly as they are. So…
HARWOOD: So could these high prices help us?
Sen. OBAMA: I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing. But if we take some steps right now to help people make the adjustment, first of all by putting more money into their pockets, but also by encouraging the market to adapt to these new circumstances more quickly, particularly US automakers, then I think ultimately, we can come out of this stronger and have a more efficient energy policy than we do right now.
Obama’s comments are consistent with a 2008 statement by Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, who overtly called for an increase in gasoline prices in order to incentivize the use of alternative fuels.
“Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” Chu said. Prices in Europe at the time ranged from about $8-$9 per gallon.
As recently as March 2011, Chu suggested rising gas prices were an inevitable fact of life saying, “the price of gasoline over the long haul should be expected to go up just because of supply and demand issues.”
H/T to Jim Geraghty over at National Review, where I first read about Obama’s 2008 remarks.