Little Scottie announced today that your president is so “concerned about rising gas prices” that he is once again calling on Congress to pass the energy plan currently held hostage by Tom DeLay’s special interests.
The press corps wants to know how this four-year-old plan to subsidize the oil industry is going to help consumers pumping two-fiddy-a-gallon gas today. The answer of course: it won’t.
Q Scott, on the subject of gas prices, what’s the President — can you detail for us the President’s concern? Is he worried that high gas prices are starting to put a strain on family budgets? Or is he concerned that they’ve reached the level now where they’re starting to actually negatively impact the economy?
MR. McCLELLAN: He’s concerned — his concern has been something he’s had for his entire administration. This is a concern that the President has had from day one, when he came into office. We continue to go through this year after year because we do not have a comprehensive energy plan. That’s why the President outlined a comprehensive energy plan to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and make us more energy self-sufficient.
Q Will there be any immediate impact, if Congress approved the energy package right now, on gasoline prices, the rising gasoline prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are steps that we need to look at now that we can look at and that we are looking at. This is something that is a high priority for this administration. We meet regularly on these issues, and we will continue to do so.
But there are steps that we can look at now to address some of these issues. We’ve got to make sure that there’s no price gouging going on. We’ve got to continue to move forward on cleaner, more efficient technologies, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’ve taken some action when it comes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for SUVs and trucks. We helped improve those standards. And as a result, by 2007, you’re going to see some — see us save some 340,000 barrels of oil a day.
We also have taken steps on diesel regulations to enable clean diesel vehicles to — or to have clean diesel vehicles. And our budget in 2006 has $2 billion in tax incentives for energy-efficient hybrid vehicles. And we want to see continued funding for the hydrogen fuel initiative. So there are steps we’re taking. But what needs to happen is Congress needs to act on the comprehensive strategy that we outlined.
Q And if they do that, will there be any immediate impact on rising prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’ve got to make ourselves more energy self-sufficient. That’s one of the things the President, I expect, will talk about in his remarks, and you’ll hear more from the President in his remarks next week, talking about this matter.
Q Scott, on energy again, I understand the President believes a comprehensive energy plan is the long-term solution. Does he believe Congress, or anybody, can do anything about a short-term solution and the currently spiraling prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I talked about what we’re doing now. Maybe you weren’t paying attention at the beginning, when Terry was asking his questions, but —
Q Well, you never really gave much of an answer on something immediate.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think I did. We are constantly looking at these issues. That’s why I said that it is a high priority for this administration, it has been from day one. We need to make sure that there’s no price-gouging going on. We also need to move forward on those other initiatives — which we are — that I outlined at the beginning.
Q But those are long-term solutions. Currently, gas prices —
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are steps that we can take now to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And in terms of price-gouging, that’s not — that’s something we do now.
Q Will the high price be on his mind when he speaks with Abdullah at the ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let’s wait for the meeting — let’s wait until we get a little bit closer to the meeting; then we’ll talk about it at that point.
Q Does he have to fill up the pickup truck, himself? (Laughter.)
[Later still… ]
Q Scott, at what level are you concerned about price gouging, and just what are you doing about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: What’s that? Well, Department of Energy and Justice Department, they stay focused on those issues to make sure that that isn’t happening.
Q I mean, is this at the refiner level, at the service station level?
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s something we’re always staying on top of, Peter.
Q What, if anything, can you point to that the administration tried to do, ever, to keep gas prices from getting to the point where they are now?
MR. McCLELLAN: What can I point to? The comprehensive energy plan we outlined at the very beginning of our first term and called on Congress to pass.
Q I’m asking what’s been done to try to keep gas prices from getting to where they are now. Whatever it was —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s why I pointed out that what happens is that we see this problem recur year after year — the prices go down, but then they come back up, and they continue to rise. That’s why we need a comprehensive solution to this issue. That’s why the President put forward a comprehensive solution to the issue. And now it’s time for Congress to act on that comprehensive energy plan.