It would appear as though Energy Secretary, Steve Chu is learning there is quite a bit of difference between saying dumb stuff as a pointy-headed academic and saying dumb stuff as the head of the Department of Energy.
Recall it was Chu, before entering the administration and as a professor of physics at Stanford, said he desired to see gas prices in the U.S. approach that of Europe's.
And recall a couple weeks back, Chu, now the very public face of the DOE and maintaining his principled stand on gas prices, told Congress that lowering gas prices was not really that high of a priority of his.
Well, politics has a curious way of adjusting one's principles as bad poll numbers suggest the American public does indeed hold the President and his people responsible for high gas prices.
From the National Journal:
Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Tuesday retracted his now-infamous quote from 2008: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”(italics, ours)
“I no longer share that view,” Chu said in response to questioning from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on another topic related to DOE’s loan-guarantee program.
Chu’s 2008 quote, initially included in a Wall Street Journal article, has formed the foundation for daily Republican attacks on President Obama over high gas prices.
Chu seemed to equivocate, pause, and stumble over his words when responding to Lee’s question about high gas prices. Other comments Chu made at another hearing late last month put him in hot water on gas prices. Politico reported on Feb. 28 that Chu told a House committee that he was not working to lower gasoline prices but to wean the United States off oil. That story has since been corrected to clarify that DOE is working to both lower gas prices and wean the country off oil. But that was only after the story was picked up by Republicans and used against the administration.
During his testimony before the Senate panel on Tuesday, after stopping and starting with a few thoughts on the economy and the department’s commitment to alternatively fueled vehicles, Chu told Lee: “Of course we don’t want the price of gasoline to go up. We want it to go down.”
New polling out this week found that the president's disapproval rating is going up alongside high gasoline prices, which averaged $3.80 per gallon nationwide on Tuesday.
After the hearing, Chu told reporters that he changed his view from 2008 because of the fragile economy.
“There is a real hardship that Americans are suffering at the gasoline pump,” Chu said. “The recovery is fragile. Another spike in gasoline prices could put that recovery at jeopardy. So there are many, many reasons why we do not want the price of gasoline to go up.”
Splitting atoms at Lawrence Livermore Labs is a little different from telling working Americans that higher gas prices is necessarily a good thing, now isn't Steve?
It remains to be seen, however, if Chu really believes this new-found alleged pragmatism. We doubt it. He currently runs the administration's cronyistic green energy loan program and we doubt the President would've picked the guy to run the DOE if he was a practical all of the above energy type.
With the President's poll numbers tanking, throw the people some comforting words to let them know you feel their pain and get back to business as usual.