ABC News' David Kerley, Jon Garcia and Sunlen Miller report:
President Obama says he is ready to go after gasoline price gougers announcing today a new task force to “root out any cases of fraud of manipulation” of oil markets.
In Reno, at a green technology company to talk about the budget, Mr. Obama took time to discuss what many Americans are really worried about. “Folks are out there dealing with gas at $4 a gallon,” he told the Nevada crowd, “it’s tough.” He said he had already asked the Attorney General “to look into any cases of price gouging.”
The Attorney General’s new energy fraud team will, according to the President, “root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, and that includes the role of traders and speculators. We're going to make sure that nobody's taking advantage of American consumers for their own short-term gains.”
But Mr. Obama offered no easy solutions. He did complain about fellow politicians who are “shocked” by higher gas prices, saying “they get in front of TV and they say we’ve got a three point plan to bring gas down to 2 bucks a gallon. And then when gas prices go down, nothing ever happens.”
The President also called for an end to subsidies to oil and gas companies. “Four billion dollars a year are going to companies that are making record profits. Even during the recession they were making big profits.” He said over the past 5 years the least the five big oil companies made a year was $75 billion and the most was $125 billion. He drew applause when he added, “it’s gotta stop. Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy’s source let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”
In Bill Clinton style, Mr. Obama said he understands the pain at the pump. Admitting the Secret Service doesn’t let him fill up his own tank the President told the crowd of 400, “I remember before I was president the last time gas prices went up this high. It's tough.” He added, “maybe you don't have the money to buy a new car that gets better gas mileage, so you've got that old beater -- it's, you know, 8 miles a gallon and -- you know -- I've been there -- it hurts.”