WASHINGTON – A Democratic lawmaker stepped off the idea of nationalizing oil refineries, telling FOX News on Thursday he only means to put "national pressure" on oil companies — a day after he endorsed the idea of government refinery ownership.
Following President Bush's call on Wednesday for the re-opening of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil exploration after a 27-year moratorium, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., endorsed the idea of national ownership of at least some U.S. oil refineries.
But on Thursday, Hinchey wouldn't repeat his call for nationalization, only saying he thought it was important to put pressure on oil companies to bring prices down, and that there should be a greater push for alternative energy sources.
On Wednesday, Hinchey criticized Republicans for what he said was a hypocritical approach to energy prices: "Our Republican friends also talk about the need to set up ways in which the material can be refined, refineries. Well, do we own refineries? No. The oil companies own refineries. Should the people of the United States own refineries? Maybe so.
"Frankly, I think that's a good idea."
Hinchey said that would allow the federal government to better "control the amount of refined product much more capably" than the oil companies.
"Right now the oil companies that own all of these leases, that control the production of this material, that control the price at the pump, the price of home heating oil, they're the one who control the refineries," he said.
But on Thursday, Hinchey avoided questions over his support for U.S. ownership of refineries in an interview with FOX News. He conceded, however, that the idea was unlikely.
Asked if he advocated the government taking over the oil business, he said: "Let's be serious. The government is not going to be taking over these refineries. ... But I do think we need to be putting national pressure on these oil companies ... to let them know that we're prepared to do whatever is in the national interest of the people of this country. That's our job — do what is in the public interest."