Vice President Joe Biden promised students at a Virginia high school a quick explanation for why U.S. gas prices are high and still rising, but then went on for 11 minutes, delving into the complexities of the oil market and of the changes and tensions in the Middle East.
The explanation came when a student at Maury High School in Norfolk, Va., following a speech on college affordability, asked the vice president why gas prices are so high.
Biden said that the average price per gallon, which has nearly doubled under the Obama administration, is tied to a complex global oil market that has skyrocketed because of "talk about war with Iran"; fear that Iran might "take out the Saudi oil fields and Bahraini oil fields"; the Arab Spring movement; "war in Libya"; the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood; and a potential for unforeseen political unrest, such as "chaos in Russia."
"It's complicated. You fully understand it. I'm going to give you a brief answer, remembering that famous admonition of Samuel Clemens: He said all generalizations are false, including this one. But I'm going to give it to you as quick and as straight as I can," Biden said before launching into 11 minutes of talking points.
"I'm treating this answer like I would if I were answering on 'Meet the Press' so I hope I'm not offending anybody by just going straight to it," he said, pausing halfway through.
After the speech, the Republican National Committee circulated Biden's longwinded explanation as a "non-answer" to the question about why prices are so high, and they suggested the vice president was engaging in the kind of "loose talk of war" that the administration has recently decried.
In an interview last month with a local TV affiliate from Orlando, Fla., President Obama said, "The biggest driver of these high gas prices is speculation about possible war in the Middle East, which is why we have been trying to reduce some of the loose talk about war there."
Today Biden said the administration has been trying to reduce the threat of war in the region.
"Were trying to manage these outcomes in ways that will bring some stability. But the world markets don't care about that. They just hedge the bets," Biden said.
He also defended Obama's record on drilling and investments in renewable energy sources, as well as his call to end billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies.
"There's no way to get energy independent unless you do all of the above," he said. "I get confused by our friends who don't think we should do any of that."