Shortly before he became Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” To be clear this was uttered in September, just months before Obama chose him as Secretary.
Today, during a hearing on the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program, Secretary Chu was asked about this by Senator Mike Lee. Secretary Chu took the opportunity to revise and extend his previous remarks:
Secretary Chu: Since I walked in the door as Secretary of Energy I’ve been doing everything in powers to, uh, to do what we can to reduce these, as we see these gas prices spike, to reduce those prices. The administration, the President and I personally, yes we do acknowledge and feel the pain of not only American consumers but American businesses when they see these prices increase. And what we can do, all the tools available we are using, but in the Department of Energy’s tool chest the most important thing we are doing is to offload the dependency on oil using natural gas for transportation, electrification, biofuels, all of those things. Now…
Sen. Lee: So are you saying that you no longer share the view that we need to figure out how to boost gasoline prices in America.
Sec. Chu: I no longer share that view.
Senator Lee pressed the point and Sec. Chu almost got himself in trouble by referring to the down economy. I’ll transcribe it exactly so you can see how much trouble he had with this:
Chu: I think that right now in this, uh, in this economic very slow but, but, you know it’s, return that we need to, uh, we need to have these prices well could have, well could affect the comeback of our economy and we’re very worried about that. So of course we don’t want the price of gasoline to go up we want it to go down.
Word jumble aside, notice that the main answer Sec. Chu gave is the administration’s plan to “offload oil dependency.” In other words, largely this is about new CAFE standards. The plan is for manufacturer fleet averages to reach 55 mpg by 2025. A new Toyota Prius gets about 50mpg, meaning it will be considered a gas guzzler under this plan. The Chevy Volt falls in Chu’s good graces, but hasn’t exactly been a hit with consumers. It’s not clear what, other than very high gas prices, is going to change people’s minds about over-priced electric cars.