What Is the White House Doing About Oil Prices: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH – 3/2/2011

TAPPER: The oil prices and how they've been skyrocketing up – what is the administration's response to Bernanke's comments yesterday about concern that if they -- if they stay up there, it could significantly damage the economy? What is the administration doing about it, and who is the point person in the White House or the administration on this issue?

CARNEY: We, as you know, are closely monitoring the situation. We are -- the president is extremely aware of the impact that a spike in oil prices can have on gasoline prices and therefore on the wallets and pocketbooks of average Americans. And we are monitoring that closely.

We -- I have talked about the fact that the -- we remain confident that the global system has the capacity to deal with major disruptions in oil supply. And we are obviously discussing having conversations with international organizations, the IEA, as well as oil-producing states about options related to that capacity.

In terms of who's in charge of this issue, clearly, the -- our NEC director, Gene Sperling, focuses on this very closely; so does the Treasury secretary and others. It's something that, again, we are monitoring very closely.

TAPPER: Can you just explain what some of those options might be? In the past, we've seen presidents raise the issue of possibly opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserves as a way of trying to exert some leverage over OPEC countries to bring their prices down. And we haven't heard anything like that from this administration. What exactly are you doing, other than monitoring and discussing options? What options?

CARNEY: Well, there are a variety of possibilities and options that are available to -- I think not just at the national level, the level of the United States, but globally, to deal with disruptions in oil supplies. I'm not going to get into an analysis of the individual options that are being looked at, except to say that, you know, we are monitoring the situation closely and evaluating the options that we have.

TAPPER: The -- one last question. The governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, recently -- I think it was today -- said that he thinks that this administration wants prices to go up because it will discourage energy consumption. And he pointed to a quote from your secretary of Energy in which he talked about -- I realize this was before he was the secretary of Energy, Steven Chu; 2008, I believe -- talked about how the United States needed to have Europe-like gas prices.* Is there anything to that? Is there anything to the administration thinking that it is a long-term good for the administration -- I mean for the country, if prices are high?

CARNEY: Jake, you made the point that that statement was made by Secretary Chu before this administration was ever in office --

TAPPER: Still represents his philosophy….

CARNEY: And -- no, in fact, if you look at his -- some of his testimony, I believe he's addressed this and renounced the notion that you put forward that somehow what Governor Barbour said is accurate.

This president, this administration's keenly aware of the impact of high gasoline prices on average Americans, especially in a still- recovering economy. And we are monitoring gas prices. And we are also, as you have seen over the past two-plus years, very focused on the need precisely to develop other energy sources so that we are not as dependent on foreign oil as we have been in the past. That is right for economic reasons and right for national security reasons. So, beyond that, I would just say that those comments were clearly made in the context of 2012 presidential politics, so you have to take them, I think, understanding that.

*Editor’s Note: Chu, per the Wall Street Journal 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,” Chu, then the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, told the newspaper. He backed off this during his Senate confirmation hearings.

-Jake Tapper

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