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Obama defends his energy policy in Florida speech, after coming under fire for high gas prices

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

In a blistering election-year attack on his political foes, President Barack Obama charged Thursday that Republicans are "licking their chops" over painfully high gas prices that threaten the fragile economic recovery.

"Only in politics do people root for bad news and they greet bad news so enthusiastically," he said in a combative speech at the University of Miami. "You pay more, and they're licking their chops."

The defiant rhetoric came after days in which the White House has worked to get off the defensive over high gasoline prices, insisting that Obama has done everything he can to bring those costs down. The administration blamed sticker shock at the pump on unrest in the Middle East, speculative trading, and heightened demand in China, Brazil, and India.

Obama assured Americans that he feels their pain, saying the rise in gas prices "hurts everybody" and "means you've got to find even more room in a budget that was already tight."

The president accused Republicans of seeing "a political opportunity" and mockingly described them as "dusting off their three-point plan for $2 gas."

"I'll save you the suspense:  Step one is drill, and step two is drill, and then step three is keep drilling," he said. "Well the American people aren't stupid.  They know that's not a plan — especially since we're already drilling.  That's a bumper sticker.  It's not a strategy to solve our energy challenge.  It's a strategy to get politicians through an election."

Republicans angrily shot back that the president was the political opportunist.

"Facing an election, the President would like everyone to forget that gas prices have doubled over the past three years while he consistently blocked and slowed the production of American-made energy. From his drilling moratorium to his denial of the keystone pipeline, the President has time and again sided with his liberal base over American families" said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

Obama said there were "no quick fixes" and "no silver bullets" to solve the situation and called for a "sustained, all-of-the-above" approach to develop domestic energy.

"Anyone who tells you we can drill our way out of this problem doesn't know what they're talking about — or just isn't telling you the truth," he said.

Obama explained that he had expanded drilling and pushed for continued investments in American-based energy -- "oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more" — and the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles and buildings. And he warned the problem might take more than a decade to solve.

Ahead of the speech, Republicans sent reporters findings from independent fact-checking organizations that show the drop in oil imports, which Obama ascribes to his policies, actually stems from declining demand, which has resulted from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

And Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell scoffed at Obama's call to end government subsidies to hugely profitable oil companies — a stable of the president's campaign rhetoric.

"If someone in the administration can show me that raising taxes on American energy production will lower gas prices and create jobs, then I will gladly discuss it," said McConnell. "But since nobody can, and the president doesn't, this is merely an attempt to deflect from his failed policies."

McConnell pushed Obama and congressional Democrats to "open their eyes to the opportunity presented by the Keystone XL pipeline" designed to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Obama administration postponed a decision on the pipeline, which is expected to come after the November election.

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