OTR Interviews

Could US gas prices reach $9 a gallon?

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says 'no one knows' if US gas could reach $9/gal and that skyrocketing prices are out of officials' control ... but is that really true?

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, $9 a gallon for gas. That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But could it be a possibility? Listen to what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the National Press Club.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone here said they visited Greece and it was at $9 a gallon. Are we headed in that direction?

KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: You know, we -- We do not control the price of oil. I don't think anyone can speculate what will happen with respect to oil prices and gas prices because they are set on the global economy. So where it will all end, no one knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there really no end in sight? We asked Senator Bob Casey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. BOB CASEY, D-PENN.: Greta, great to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. The secretary of interior, Ken Salazar, says no one knows if the price of gas will go to $9 a gallon. Is that possible?

CASEY: I don't know. But what we have to do is take some steps in the near term to have some impact on gas prices. I've outlined a couple of steps to do that. One is to use the power that the Congress has to give the Justice Department greater authority to bring actions against OPEC. That's one way to do it. I think the commodities futures trading commission, if they get the rules out the door, as I have been urging them, could have an impact on the so-called position, so you don't have one player in the oil marketplace, driving up prices too much. I think we should take action. But it's a difficult time for families paying higher prices.

VAN SUSTEREN: What you suggest, assuming it's a good idea, it would take some time to accomplish that. I think most people look at the gas prices and they look, and they drive down the street and they see it crawling up, although it's down six cents from a month ago. Do you have any information at all or any sort of fear that it could rise as high as $9 a gallon when the secretary of interior says he doesn't know, that puts uncertainty amongst us who hear.

CASEY: I haven't seen evidence that it would go that high. But even the point it's at now hovering around $4 is too high and we need to take action and try as best we can to focus on the short term.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the short-term answer? Is there any?

CASEY: If the commodities future trading commission sends a very direct signal by way of their authority already -- they have statutory authority right now on position limits for oil speculators, that would send a very strong signal and I think that would have an impact. But I don't think there is any particular magic wand. I think we as well should try to focus on some short-term steps.

Ultimately, we should be diversifying and reduce our dependence. Natural gas, and I'm not just saying because Pennsylvania has a shale region, but natural gas can play a significant role in diversifying our energy sources, a cheaper form of energy, very clean, and also one that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And I think folks want us to go, to have an energy strategy, going forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: To what extent can policy control the price of gas? You have some events beyond our borders, like if there is a war in Iran. Do you anticipate that would drive prices? And are there other external forces that you worry about having an impact on oil?

CASEY: Oh, sure. That's why, when we focus on the Iranian regime, we have to be conscience conscious of all of those factors. I have put sanctions pressure. I think even with the concerns some have about what they may be doing in terms of the oil market, I think we can put a lot of pressure on them to hold them accountable.

But at the same time we have to take steps here domestically to some impact. I realize that some of this is beyond our borders, but I would like to be able to use the authority of the United States government to take action against OPECif they are going to continue to fix prices and thereby jack up the price of oil.

VAN SUSTEREN: What action would you take against OPEC? They seem to have a lot of muscle.

CASEY: Well, they do. But if we give the Justice Department the authority, I would like the Justice Department take legal action against them.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that's like saying "boo" to OPEC, isn't it? They will say, whatever, if our Justice Department says, you are doing something wrong.

CASEY: A price-fixing suit by the United States government would be unprecedented, and I think it would be a step in the right direction to give our government the authority it should have right now to take action to protect our taxpayers and our families who have to live with the high price of oil sometimes set by some oligarch in another part of the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: On a one to 10 scale, 10 the most frightened or worried, how worried are you that we are going to have a war or situation in Iran that drives the prices up?

CASEY: It's a grave concern.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it a seven or eight?

CASEY: I don't want to put a number on it.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but I am trying to gauge the seriousness because we read from the outside. We are trying to figure out how serious it is. I don't want to be an alarmist, but I don't want to be a sitting duck.

CASEY: It's a very grave concern. One of the best ways to deal with it is to adopt what Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman and I have done, which is to say to Iran and say to the world, especially to the Iranian regime, we are going to stop from getting nuclear weapons capability. We are going to draw the line there. We can do everything we can on diplomacy, put as much economic pressure as we can, but we have to be very clear about our intentions to stop them from doing that. If we do that I think we give some clarity to an issue that people are very concerned about.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think what you just said, if any viewers are listening, they love to hear that you named a Republican and an Independent and a Democrat working on that. We don't hear much of that.

CASEY: That happens once in a while.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's why I wanted to highlight it and say how much we appreciate it. Senator, thank you, sir.

CASEY: Greta, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)