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Obama: End tax breaks for oil companies

- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2012

President Obama said Saturday he can't do much to lower gas prices, and renewed his call for Congress to end tax breaks for oil companies.

"The truth is, the price of gas depends on a lot of factors that are often beyond our control," Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. "Unrest in the Middle East can tighten global oil supply. Growing nations like China or India adding cars to the road increases demand."

The president didn't mention one of the few direct actions he could take to try to lower gas prices in the short term — releasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Mr. Obama called for that solution as a candidate in 2008 when gasoline prices neared $4 per gallon, and he reportedly discussed the option earlier this week with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Instead, Mr. Obama said his administration is cracking down on oil profits — on traders who "distort the price of oil, and make big profits for themselves at your expense." And he called on Congress again to eliminate $4 billion in annual tax breaks for oil companies.

"Your member of Congress should be fighting for you," Mr. Obama said. "Not for big financial firms. Not for big oil companies."

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service last year found that eliminating the subsidies would likely result in higher gas prices in the short term.

The address was the president's second speech on gas prices and energy in three days. Public opinion polls are showing that the president's job-approval rating, on the rise earlier in this election year, has dipped again as gas prices have risen. Retail prices on Friday rose a penny to a national average of $3.83 per gallon.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has pledged to enact policies that he said should lower gasoline prices to $2.50, a notion that Mr. Obama scoffs at.

"It's easy to promise a quick fix when it comes to gas prices," the president said in his address. "There just isn't one. Anyone who tells you otherwise — any career politician who promises some three-point plan for two-dollar gas — they're not looking for a solution. They're just looking for your vote."

In 2008, Mr. Obama stood in front of a gas station near Indianapolis and pledged to "take steps to reduce the price of oil." He focused on long-term actions such as increasing fuel efficiency standards and promoting clean energy, which he has done as president.

"I will work to solve this energy crisis once and for all," he said at the time.

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