President Obama today defended his record on energy policy amid rising oil prices and Republican criticism that the president has done little to encourage domestic production and energy independence.
"We've been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up, politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we're shocked," the president said in his news conference. "I think the American people are tired of that. I think they're tired of talk. We've got to work together... to finally secure America's energy future."
Oil prices have surged in recent weeks because of turmoil in the Middle East, specifically Libya, where dictator Moammar Gadhafi is embroiled in what many observers describe as a civil war. The price hikes come ahead of the peak summer driving season and have created friction between Democrats and Republicans.
Obama said today he is prepared to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "should the situation demand," and that his administration is also looking into the possible manipulation of markets by oil traders.
"We are confident about our ability to fill any potential gaps in supply," he said.
When it comes to Libya, Obama pressed Gadhafi to heed the voices of many of his people and step down. He said the United States will continue to apply pressure on Libya and will seek talks with opposition forces, and all options are on the table.
"I believe that Gadhafi's on the wrong side of history. I believe that the Libyan people are anxious for freedom and the removal of somebody who has suppressed them for decades now," the president said. "We are going to be in contact with the opposition as well as in consultation with the international community to try to achieve the goal of Mr. Gadhafi being removed from power."
A new Gallup survey released this week found that 49 percent of Americans predict gas prices will rise to $4 or more a gallon this year and 27 percent believe prices will surpass the $5 mark. The American Automobile Association notes that prices have gone up, on average, 10 cents in the past week and 41 cents in the past month.
House Republicans, deriding what they say is the president's lack of leadership on this front, Thursday unveiled their own plan to expand U.S. energy production and end Obama administration policies that, they contend, are harmful to prices and job growth.
Republicans argue that the president's policies are hindering oil and gas exploration in the United States, which, in turn, expand reliance on foreign oil.
"Just as with jobs, the American people recognize that Washington has been a big part of the problem when it comes to the price of energy," Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday.
"If you watch what this administration has done for the last two years in their regulatory process, they've stopped drilling in the Gulf, they've slowed the number of leases coming out of the government, and they're imposing these EPA regulations on American businesses that are going to sharply increase the cost of energy in America."