WASHINGTON–U.S. President Barack Obama called on Saturday for an end to America’s dependence on foreign energy sources — and to the multibillion-dollar subsidies given each year to oil companies. “What we can’t do is keep being dependent on other countries for our energy needs,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
“In America we control our own destiny,” he added. “So that’s the choice we face — the past, or the future.”
The comments came as the president faces mounting criticism from Republicans, who have blamed his energy policy for spiking gas prices.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts gasoline prices across the United States could average US$4.25 a gallon by May, up from US$3.83 today. Between 1998 and 2004, prices ranged from US$1 to US$2. Prices vary wildly between regions, however, and last week, gasbuddy.com, a website that tracks prices in all 50 states, reported US$5.09 a gallon at one Mobil and two Chevron stations in greater Los Angeles. Given that 76 percent of Americans drive themselves to work, and a trip to the store can often mean a long drive to the mall, higher gas prices are a critical issue — especially in a presidential election year. The president noted that the price of gasoline depended on a lot of factors that are beyond U.S. control.
“Unrest in the Middle East can tighten global oil supply,” he said. “Growing nations like China or India adding cars to the road increases demand.”
But he pointed out that his administration had already put in place new standards that will make sure that American cars average nearly 55 miles per gallon (88.5 kilometers per 3.8 liters) by the middle of the next decade — nearly double what they get today.
The president also called for ending the US$4 billion a year in tax breaks that U.S. oil companies receive each year. “In the next few weeks, I expect Congress to vote on ending these subsidies,” he said. “And when they do, we’re going to put every single Member of Congress on record: They can either stand up for oil companies, or they can stand up for the American people.”