In the most spirited defense yet of his record on energy policy, President Barack Obama today dismissed his critics as playing politics by promising cheap gas without real solutions, and asked his supporters to pressure Congress to end subsidies for oil companies.
At an event in Largo, Md., Obama said people “running for a certain office, who shall go unnamed” have been “talking down new sources of energy” and have dismissed his plan to double vehicle mileage standards by 2025.
“I guess they like gas guzzlers,” he said.
Obama said he expects Congress to vote in the next few weeks on ending subsidies for oil companies.
“It is time for this oil industry giveaway to end,” he said. “I guess you can stand up for the oil companies ... or you can stand up for the American people.”
The president said the $4 billion a year in oil industry subsidies could be redirected to other sources of energy. He dismissed critics as pursuing an unsustainable oil-only future instead of investing in new technologies such as wind, solar and biofuels.
“There have always been folks like that. There have always been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future,” Obama said.
He singled out President Rutherford B. Hayes for questioning why anybody would want to use the telephone when it was invented, saying that’s why “he’s not on Mount Rushmore.”
Obama again defended his record, saying that on his watch America has expanded drilling every year, but he said drilling alone can’t solve the problem of high gas prices or reliance on foreign oil.
The president said the administration has approved dozens of new pipelines — although he did not mention the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline — and has opened up millions of new acres on land and offshore for drilling.
“There are a few spots where we’re not drilling,” he said. “We’re not drilling on the National Mall. We’re not drilling in your house. ... I suppose we could have 200 oil rigs in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay,” he said to boos.
Obama said his administration is pursuing additional drilling in ways that protect health and safety.
Republicans, however, said the president continues to mislead the public by blocking drilling in many areas of the country on and offshore and blocking the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas. And they pinned the blame on Obama for the doubling of gas prices on his watch.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.