Energy Secretary Denies Administration is Intentionally Seeking Higher Prices to Push Green Agenda

By Fred Lucas | March 31, 2011 | 5:26 PM EDT

A driver attaches a battery charging connector to an electric vehicle. (Photo: Nissan Leaf)

Washington ( – On the day President Barack Obama announced his energy agenda, Energy Secretary Steven Chu rejected Republican claims that the administration sought to push up energy prices in order to promote a green agenda.

“The price of gas and oil today is so high today and such a hardship to the American people and businesses and the recovery is fragile,” Chu said in response to a question about the claims during a White House briefing Wednesday.

“So I don’t think anyone seriously considers – anyone in public office, especially the president – considered that. We want to give the American people solutions that work today and continue to work so that, two years from today something like this should happen again, we’re not surprised. We will be in a better position to absorb that, given that we have a diversity of choices.”

During a Senate floor speech in early March, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) charged that higher energy prices were an “explicit policy of the Obama administration” designed to push alternative and renewable fuels.

Chu believes the public will already gravitate to energy efficient vehicles.

“As we develop better and better,more fuel efficient cars, plug-in hybrids, other hybrids, electric cars, the Americans will vote with their feet,” Chu said. “They see in the long term what might be happening. And I think Americans will make the right choice.”

Speaking at Georgetown University earlier Wednesday, Obama stated that energy proposals focusing on electric cars, biofuels, tougher fuel efficiency standards and some additional domestic drilling would decrease the U.S. dependency on oil imports by one-third.

“Today, I want to announce a new goal, one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary,” Obama said. “When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.”

The proposals include offering a $7,500 tax credit for consumers, and competitive block grants for local governments to purchase electric vehicles.

“Soon after I took office, I set a goal of having one million electric vehicles on our roads by 2015,” the president said. “We’ve created incentives for American companies to develop these vehicles, and for Americans who want them to buy them.”

In February just 281 Chevrolet Volts and 67 Nissan Leafs – two of the more readily-available electric vehicles – were sold. Taking those modest numbers up to one million by 2015 does not seem realistic, said Dan Kisch, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a free market energy think tank.

“Between the Volt and the Nissan, you’ve got 400 sales in February, and he wants one million on the road in three years,” Kisch told “That would mean 300,000 per year, up from the current rate of 4,800.”

Kisch argued that the president’s policies were nothing new.

“He is just re-gifting a present the American public doesn’t want,” Kisch said. “This means more expensive energy with more government red tape and green tape and more government control over what energy people can use, how they use it and whether they can use it.”

In addition to the proposed tax credit for purchasers of electric cars, the Obama energy agenda also calls for:

-- granting incentives for oil companies to use land they already have. The agenda does not call for opening up new land for drilling;

-- expanding biofuels markets and commercializing new biofuel technologies by breaking ground on at least four commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced bio-refineries over the next two years;

-- setting new fuel economy standards for model years 2012-16 to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, a step the administration says will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles;

-- “weatherizing” low income homes to be more energy efficient; and

-- increasing research and development spending for battery-powered technology.

Chu said the United States in 2009 produced about two percent of the batteries for battery-powered vehicles. Under the administration’s plan, within the next decade the U.S. could produce 500,000 batteries, for 40 percent of the world’s market.