Reduced demand in Japan combined with uncertainty in Libya has caused short-term instability in the price of gasoline globally, but it's nearly impossible to mitigate the long-term effects without changes in energy policy, President Obama's point-man on the topic said Sunday.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who in 2008 called for ramping up gas prices to those comparable to Europe in order to coax Americans toward green energy, said that as head of his department, he's working on "developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices."
"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," Chu told "Fox News Sunday."
He said part of the Obama administration approach is to increase mileage standards and support the development of electric vehicles that could have batteries that last 200 to 300 miles on a single charge.
Nonetheless, in the short term, Americans are competing for gasoline supplies with a growing number of industries in India and China. That has made gasoline more expensive over time.
But unexpected short-term events also have a significant impact on prices. In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the price of gasoline had actually dropped a bit. Added on top of that, Libya's Friday declaration of a cease-fire after news of a U.N. resolution authorizing a coalition offensive led prices to drop slightly -- to just over $101 per barrel. The average price per gallon of gas on Sunday was $3.55.
Chu said events in Libya have interrupted only a small fraction of the world's supply, "and we have excess capacity in the world." However, the oil price hikes -- more than 41 cents per gallon of gas from one month ago -- could help move America toward cleaner and more fuel efficient energy options.
"I have to say that we not only should look at what the price of oil is going to be doing in the next day and week, but we also have to be concerned about what the price of oil will be doing five, 10, 20 years from today," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on "Fox News Sunday."
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on ABC's "This Week" that reactionary responses to crises -- like the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill -- will only harm America's attempts to develop mindful energy policies. He said a broader and comprehensive policy is needed.
"You know, at the end of the day, if we don't use coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear, we're going to be sitting around the fire trying to warm ourselves like we did eons ago," Chertoff said. "So we're going to have to manage risk. That doesn't mean guaranteeing against any. It means having in place ways to mitigate problems."