Obama: What president facing reelection wants higher gas prices?

Bob Cusack predicts Obama will have a problem with voters if gas hits $4/gal


President Obama pushed back against critics who suggests he wants gas prices to increase, saying he doesn't think anyone believes that would be the goal for a president seeking a second term.

"Just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher? Is that -- is that -- is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?" Obama asked rhetorically at a White House news conference.

"Here's the bottom line with respect to gas prices," he continued, "I want gas prices lower because they hurt families ... it's a tax out of their pocketbooks, out of their paychecks. And a lot of folks are already operating on the margins right now."

In the past month, gasoline prices have risen by more than 28 cents per gallon, making fuel the most expensive ever for this time of year.  On Tuesday, the nationwide average for regular unleaded slipped less than a penny to $3.764 per gallon, ending a string of price increases that began on Feb. 8. 

On Thursday, the Energy Information Administration, a U.S. government agency, said it expects the average price for regular grade gas to be $3.79 per gallon in 2012 and $3.72 per gallon in 2013, compared with $3.53 per gallon in 2011.

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Obama said he's asking Attorney General Eric Holder to organize a task force to examine whether speculation in the oil markets is driving up oil prices. He added that he wants an "all-of-the-above" strategy to increase production that relies on conserving energy and developing clean energy technologies. 

"That's why we doubled fuel-efficiency standards on cars, which will save consumers about $1.7 trillion and take about 12 billion barrels of oil, you know, off-line, which will help to reduce prices," he said.

The president has long said new technology is the way to go, and oil is out.

"Instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's," the president said at the State of the Union address in January before challenging Congress to make 80 percent of America's electricity come from clean energy sources by 2035.

While Obama claims credit for an increase in U.S. oil production under his watch, during this administration domestic oil production on federal lands has fallen while production on private lands is up. 

Ken Green, a resident scholar on energy issues at the American Enterprise Institute, said Obama "is pulling what I call a Ferris Bueller." 

"He sees a parade going by, he's jumped on a float and is singing loudly and claiming credit for the parade," Green said.

On Tuesday, Obama said he will "keep on looking at every strategy we can to, yes, reduce the amount of oil that we use," though he acknowledged that in the short term restricted supply around the world and at U.S. refineries is cause for concern. 

But, he noted, gas prices go up every year at this time of year before dropping again. 

"We've gone through this for 30 years," he said. "And, you know, if we are going to be competitive, successful and make sure families are protected over the long term, then we've got to make sure that we've got a set of options that reduce our overall dependence on oil."