Obama officials 'ecstatic' over skyrocketing gasoline prices
by Call M. Nast
DALLAS, Texas, May 31, 2011 — Energy Secretary Steven Chu today said he and other members of the Obama administration are "ecstatic" over skyrocketing gasoline prices but realize they still have "a lot of work to do" to accomplish their goal of reaching $8 a gallon.
"Unleaded gasoline was only $1.83 a gallon on the last day of President Bush's term," Chu said. "I'm happy to announce that last month the average price at the pump was $3.88 a gallon. This is still a long ways from President Obama's goal, but we're making headway."
Chu said he and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar along with White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner have succeeded in reversing an alarming trend of lower gas prices by aggressively limiting the supply of domestic oil.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, said that U.S. foreign policy also should get some credit for increasing oil prices by encouraging unrest in the Middle East.
"Bombing Libya and fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq all have helped," she said, "but President Obama's courageous statement that Israel must give up land to the Palestinians might have the most lasting impact of all."
Democratic National Committee Member Rose Thorne said prices of all fossil fuels could have been forced even higher if Republicans had not fought "tooth and nail" against her party's "cap and trade" energy plan.
"The Republicans kept Congress from passing this important legislation," she said. "That is why it's so important to put Democrats back in control of Congress. We simply cannot depend on capitalism to help us meet our goal of making gasoline and electricity so expensive that people won't use it.
Deputy Energy Secretary Calla Mitty acknowledged Monday that President Obama so far has made little progress in his campaign promises to bankrupt the coal industry and to force the price of electricity to skyrocket but blamed it on citizens who are addicted to cheap energy.
""There are still way too many people who can't seem to wean themselves from hot water, central air conditioning and central heating," she said Monday. Everybody needs to sacrifice in order to make the president's energy policy work. All we're asking is for people to take cold showers, use fans in hot weather, and wear snowmobile suits to bed in cold weather."
Assistant Interior Secretary Sandy C. Schorr said Obama should get credit for largely succeeded in stemming the flow of domestic oil.
"I'm proud to say that our great leader has continued to fight all efforts to increase oil production in the Arctic," he said. "He also placed a permanent moratorium on new wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and his administration has bravely continued this moratorium despite court cases that did not go our way. And the president also should get credit for continuing to stop oil production along our coasts and inside the Lower 48. At his direction my boss cancelled 77 oil and natural gas leases in Utah even after they were signed during the Bush era.
"The United States cannot be forced to abide by agreements that were signed by Republican officials," he said.
Recently the Obama administration has been trying to shut down oil wells in portions of West Texas where the Fish and Wildlife Service has identified a rare species of lizard.
FWS Director Forrest Greene said his agency had been under pressure to identify an endangered organism that could shut down the oil industry.
"When my biologists said the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard had been declining in number due to the bad drought that has been going on in West Texas, we were relieved," he said. "If the drought doesn't end soon, oil trucks could run over some of the remaining lizards, so we're doing our best to get this little critter listed as endangered or at least threatened.
"The problem is this lizard lives in only a small area, the Permian Basin, and even if we can get oil production stopped there, we have lots and lots of country where the pump jacks are still working away.
"Let me assure the public that we are studying plants, animals and even insects to see if there are other organisms that need protection. We recently found a diary that was kept by a rancher in the 1880s, and he mentioned shooting a jaguar in West Texas. So now we're trying to classify the entire western half of the state as critical jaguar habitat in need of the highest protection available under the law."
FWS Chief Biologist Swanson Pond said environmentalists are concerned that any road closures affecting the oil industry also could shut down the thousands of windmill electricity generators that already outnumber oil wells in vast portions of Texas.
"We'll probably require some special training of drivers who maintain the wind generators," he said. "They're a lot more concerned about lizards and tarantulas and such, so we think they will slow down, while the money-hungry oil well workers would just speed up if they knew an endangered species could be on the road."
Assistant Energy Secretary Mo L. Hills said oil and coal industry workers are unnecessarily worrying that the administration's drive to reduce fossil fuel consumption will cost them jobs.
"They're just making mountains of mole hills," he said. "For every job lost to federal regulations, there will be two jobs created. We're going to need a lot of people to distribute unemployment checks, speed up foreclosures of homes formerly occupied by greedy oil field workers, and cook and serve food in homeless shelters. The future is bright. By the time President Obama achieves his goal to sell 1 million Chevy Volt electric cars, we should have plenty of jobs."