WASHINGTON – President Obama says vehicle fuel economy standards set under his administration and better cars built by a resurgent U.S. auto industry will save money at the gas pump over the long term, a counterpoint to Republican criticism of his energy policy.
In his weekly radio and online address Saturday, Obama said Detroit automakers are on track to build cars that average nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025, doubling current mileage standards.
"That means folks will be able to fill up every two weeks instead of every week, saving the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump over time," he said. "That's a big deal, especially as families are yet again feeling the pinch from rising gas prices."
During the past several weeks, Obama has been eager to appear aggressive in the face of rising gasoline prices even as he reminds audiences that there is no simple, immediate solution that will reverse the current spike in prices.
"What's happening in Detroit will make a difference. But it won't solve everything," Obama said. "There's no silver bullet for avoiding spikes in gas prices every year."
By drawing attention to the auto industry, Obama looked to highlight both his efforts to improve fuel efficiency as well as his role in helping rescue General Motors and Chrysler. He also reiterated his call to end oil and gas company tax breaks and government subsidies that average about $4 billion a year.
Rising oil prices have become a concern at the White House, where Obama aides worry they could hurt an economic recovery that has been improving and also harm the president's re-election prospects.
Oil prices typical rise in the spring, but they have spiked to heights unseen at this this time of year, hastened by increased tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Gasoline prices reached $3.74 a gallon on Friday, a record at this point in the calendar but still shy of the high point of $4.11 hit in July 2008.
In Saturday's Republican address, Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington said a meeting this week among Obama and House and Senate leaders from both parties "provided a glimmer of new hope that the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate may finally act on some bipartisan energy bills" already passed by the Republican-controlled House.
Still, Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, faulted Obama for not doing more to increase domestic oil and gas production, for opposing drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for blocking a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline and for imposing regulations on energy producers.
"The president, who campaigned on a promise to address rising gas prices, now talks as if they're largely beyond his control," Hastings said.