Rep. Frank: We Can Reduce Dependence on Oil and Lower Gas Prices at Same Time

By Patrick Burke | February 29, 2012 | 6:09 PM EST

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( -- When asked whether he agreed with Energy Secretary Steven Chu that the Obama administration's goal was to reduce dependence on foreign oil and not to lower gas prices, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said yes but that both goals could be achieved, that they are not mutually exclusive.

At a House Appropriations Committee hearing yesterday, Energy Secretary Chu was asked by Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) whether or not the overall goal of the Department of Energy (DOE) is to reduce gasoline prices, and he said, “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil.”

At the Capitol on Wednesday, asked Rep. Frank whether he agreed with Secretary Chu’s position that energy policy should be focused on reducing oil dependency and not decreasing gas prices.

Frank said, “I believe you do both, they're not mutually exclusive. Certainly you don't want to subsidize oil.”

“But yes, we want to reduce our dependence and that's where [Congressman] Ed Markey has been a leader,” said Frank. “And, of course, we get resistance from the Republicans on that, both on making our automobiles, our vehicles more fuel-efficient, which the Obama administration has finally been able to do and we have resistance -- and putting money into alternative energy. But I think getting fuel prices lower is fully consistent with that as long as you're not being unrealistic.”

In a press conference earlier today, Rep. Frank and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called for reigning in oil speculation as a way to reduce gas prices. Markey claimed that the current high gas prices -- $3.73 average for unleaded per gallon -- are due to speculators reacting to Iranian “sabre rattlers” and “Saudi princes” rather than the policies of the Obama administration.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

“Right now, oil speculators are cynically exploiting fears relating to U.S. and European efforts to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and using it to turn the oil market into a crude oil casino,” said Markey.  “It’s not Obama, it’s OPEC.”

In 2008, Secretary Chu drew criticism for a comment he made related to rising gas prices.

Chu had told the Wall Street Journal, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.”

Also, in March 2011, Chu told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that one of the measures the Obama administration had taken to reduce gas prices was increased production of fuel-efficient cars.

“What I’m doing since I became secretary of energy has been quite clear,” said Chu. “What I have been doing is developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.”

Moreover, President Barack Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008 that under his plan to implement cap and trade, “electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket.”

Then-candidate Obama had said, “Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it -- whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

Currently, the average price for one gallon of regular gasoline in the United States is $3.73, according to the AAA. When Obama took office in January 2009, the average price was $1.78.