Isn’t it interesting that a couple of unfavorable polls on Obama’s performance from typical friendly sources like The New York Times and The Washington Post can effect swift change in this administration’s policy narrative almost overnight? In 2008, then-incoming-Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Wall Street Journal that American energy policy should be calibrated to drive the cost of gasoline to the same level as Europe in order to produce more demand for alternative energy production:
Mr. Obama plans soon to introduce his energy and environment team, which will include Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as energy secretary and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner as White House energy adviser. In a sign of one major internal difference, Mr. Chu has called for gradually ramping up gasoline taxes over 15 years to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars and living in neighborhoods closer to work. “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” Mr. Chu, who directs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in September.
Almost four years later, with Obama beginning to see his polling slip on rapidly-rising gas prices at record highs approaching $4.00 per gallon in March and the compounded pain it causes working- and middle-class families, Chu finally walked back that statement in testimony to Congress Tuesday:
“I no longer share that view,” Chu said in response to questioning from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on another topic related to DOE’s loan-guarantee program.
Chu seemed to equivocate, pause, and stumble over his words when responding to Lee’s question about high gas prices. Other comments Chu made at another hearing late last month put him in hot water on gas prices. Politico reported on Feb. 28 that Chu told a House committee he was not working to lower gasoline prices but to wean the United States off oil. That story has since been corrected to clarify that DOE is working to both lower gas prices and wean the country off oil. But that was only after the story was picked up by Republicans and used against the administration.
So why the change of heart Secretary Chu? Someone take you to the woodshed on your previous stated Obama policy position on desired European type high gas prices or you “goal” not being lowering prices? Is it possible a pollster from the New York Times called the White House and said, “Hey, look, we did the best we could with these numbers, but it’s bad. And Chu is not helping it by telling everybody he wants gas prices to go up and doesn’t care about them coming down.” As much as Obama is going to whine about republicans making political theater about soaring gas prices and how the President has no control over the price at the pump, he will not be able to escape his rhetoric in 2007 on high gas prices under President Bush.