WASHINGTON – President Bush on Friday rejected calls by some lawmakers for a tax on oil company windfall profits, saying the industry should reinvest its recent gains into finding and producing more energy.
"The temptation in Washington is to tax everything," Bush said in an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "The answer is for there to be strong reinvestment to make this country more secure from an energy perspective."
With gasoline at over $3 a gallon in some areas, Bush said there was "no evidence" of price-gouging of consumers.
Soaring gas prices have become a top political issue in Congress in this midterm congressional election year. Bush spoke a day after Exxon-Mobil, the nation's biggest oil company, said its earnings climbed by 7 percent to $8.4 billion during the January-March period.
Bush said energy companies should use their increased cash flows to build more natural gas pipelines, expand refineries, explore "in environmentally friendly ways," and invest in renewable sources of energy.
"That's what the American people expect. They also expect to be treated fairly at the pump," he said. "These oil prices are a wake-up call. We're dependent on oil. We need to get off oil."
—Declared the national anthem should be sung in English — not Spanish — in response to the recent release of a Spanish language version. "And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," he said.
—Endorsed yet again a temporary worker program as a way to enforce border security.
—Rejected calls in Congress to abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "The lessons of Katrina are important. We've learned a lot here at the federal level," Bush said. "We're much more ready this time than we were the last time."
—Criticized the Sudanese government's thwarting of efforts by the U.N. and other international organizations to take a firmer control of fighting atrocities in the Darfur region. "My message to them is we expect there to be full compliance with the international desire for there to be peace in the Darfur region," he said.
— Sidestepped a question on whether recent staff changes at the White House could help reverse his slump in the polls, saying, "We've got big challenges for this country, and I've got a strategy to deal with them," he said.
— Said "the world is united and concerned" about Iran's suspected desire to build nuclear weapons and that he will work with other countries to achieve a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
On surging oil prices and energy-industry profits, Bush said it was "important for the people to understand that one of the reasons why the price of gasoline is up is, there's tight gasoline supplies. And one reason there's tight gasoline supplies is, we haven't built any new refineries since the 1970s."
Bush, a former Texas oilman, said Congress needs to provide regulatory relief so refineries can be expanded and new ones built.
"So it's a combination of people investing the cash flows, as well as regulatory relief, to enhance the ability for people to achieve the objective, which is more gasoline on the market which will help our consumers," he said.
The president announced a series of steps earlier this week designed to slightly ease upward pressure on gasoline prices, including temporarily halting the filling of the government's emergency petroleum reserve and easing environmental standards on gasoline additives.
He also asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether price-gouging was going on.
"I have no evidence that there's any rip off taking place, but it's the role of the Federal Trade Commission to assure me that my inclination and instinct is right," he told reporters.
It's up to the FTC "to assure the American people that they're being treated fairly at the pump," he added.