A nice day for a news conference in the Rose Garden.
Main points of the president’s morning news conference:
9:30 – Gas prices up $1.40 a gallon. Blasts Congress for not passing major legislation. Says it has blocked search for oil in ANWR. Says it could lead to 27 million gallons of gasoline a day and “likely mean lower gas prices.”
9:33 – “It’s been more than 30 years since America built a refinery.” Blames Congress for that. Also blames Congress for lack of nuclear power.
>> Side note. Favorite saying, “The cure for high prices is high prices.” New York Times reports today that’s not working out this time.
9:36 – Says Congress is passing a “bloated” farm bill that fails to eliminate subsidies for “millionaire farmers.” Notes that times are good right now for the farmer.
9:38 – Wants Congress to stop “sending bills that look like political statements.”
Q: You said we need to wait until stimulus package is taken effect to act again but since it was passed foreclosures are up, gas prices up etc.? Time for further action and would you support moratorium on federal gas tax?
A: Money is just now making it into peoples’ bank accounts. Wait and see. If Congress is “truly interested,” they can send the right signal by saying “we’re going to explore for oil and gas in U.S. territories, starting with ANWR.” Proposes refineries on abandoned military bases.
Q; Were you premature in saying the U.S. economy was not in recession when food and energy prices are soaring. What more can you do to persuade Saudis to increase oil output?
A: The words on how to define economy don’t reflect the anxiety of the American public. The average person doesn’t care what we call it; the average person wants to know whether or not we know that they’re paying higher gasoline prices and that they’re worried about staying in their homes and I do understand that. That’s why I call upon Congress to pass legislation that will enable people to… stay in their homes. These are tough times. Economists can argue over the terminology. The American people want to know whether Congress knows it (that these are tough times).
We’re transitioning to a new era, by the way. An era where we’re going to have batteries in our cars that are going to… enable people to drive 40 miles. More ethanol, alternative fuels. Our driving habits will change. (Repeats call for more refineries – See list of coming refinery shutdowns here.)
Q: Do you believe the alleged link between high food prices and biofuels?
A: I think 85% of world food prices are caused by weather, increased demand, and energy prices. 15% has been caused by ethanol. High price of gas is going to spur more investment in ethanol. It’s in our national interest that our farmers grow energy. We are concerned about food prices. We should buy food from local farmers as a way to deal with scarcity and put infrastructure in place so we could be self-sustaining.
Q: Flesh out thinking on why gas tax moratorium is a good idea or not.
A: Appreciate you trying to drag me into the ’08 race. We’re concerned about high gasoline prices. I’m not going to jump into the middle of a presidential campaign.
Q: Do you think we’ve neared peak oil and if so, why haven’t you put more emphasis on renewable energy?
A: We put a lot into ethanol. The solution is making ethanol out of switchgrasses or wood chips. Energy policy needs to be comprehensive. The problem is there’s been a lot of focus in the intermediate steps but not enough emphasis on the
hear here (dangit!) and now. (Bob notes: “Immediate” is not “ hearhere and now?”) More riffs on ANWR.
Q: Should the U.S. stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve?
A: Wouldn’t affect price. We’re buying about 67,000-68,000 barrels of oil a day. World demand is 85 million barrels a day. The purchases account for 1/10 of 1 percent of global demand. I don’t think that’s going to affect price. It is in our national interest to get reserve filled. Al Qaeda wants to blow up oil facilities.
Q: Are we winning in Afghanistan?
A: We’re making progress but there’s a resilient enemy. Important to remember what life was like in Afghanistan before the country was liberated. Pleased with roads that have been built. Pleased with little girls being allowed to go to school.
Q: But do you think we’re winning?
A: I do.
Q: In Iraq in 2006, you said we were winning and the strategy was working to boost troop morale. How can we believe you’re not doing the same thing…
A: Are you trying to answer my question before? The question you asked me before — and the exclusive I gave you at the ranch (this is to Martha Radatz) — was ‘you said we were winning in the past,’ I also said that there was tough fighting. Make sure you put the comments in place. What I will tell you now is we’re making progress in Afghanistan but it’s tough fighting. I’m under no illusions that this isn’t tough.
The notion that we can let these people have their way… let’s don’t stir ‘em up… is naive or disingenuous and it’s not in our nation’s interest. We’re in a global fight against thugs and killers and the United States of America has got to continue to take the lead.
Q: Last week you released classified photos of Israeli bombing of Syrian nuclear facility after earlier refusing to discuss it. Why the turnaround?
A: We briefed 22 members of Congress on what I’m about to tell you. We were concerned that an early disclosure would increase the risk of a confrontation in the Middle East or retaliation. We wanted to include more members of Congress when the risk of retaliation was reduced. That time came upon us. We want to let the North Koreans know that “we may know more about you than you think.” Wanted to send message to Syria and Iran.
Q: (Softball) Are you frustrated, angry with Congress?
A: They’re letting the American people down. It’s either lack of leadership or the lack of understanding of the issue (FISA), but either way it’s not good for the American people.
Q: I’m still waiting for my exclusive at the ranch .
A: Yeah….(laughs)… I’m at a loss for words. If only you’d have been at the White House Correspondents Dinner, I would’ve invited you. (Bob notes: This must be a NY Times reporter. The Times skipped the dinner. Good line.)
Q: ANWR, oil refineries are long-term solutions to gas prices. What are you doing in the short term?
A: It’s intermediate term (ANWR). Market’s going to encourage conservation. If there was a magic wand to wave I’d be waving it.
Q: Has Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas leaders undercut foreign policy?
A: Hamas is undercutting foreign policy. It’s important for people to understand we’re witnessing a struggle between those who understand liberty and those who want to stop it. Anybody can talk to anybody they want.
Q: Did any good come out of Carter’s talk with Hamas.
A: I didn’t talk to him and I don’t know.
Q: Are you worried your successor will neglect war on terror?
A: I don’t think John McCain is going to neglect the war on terror and I do think he will be the president (acknowledges that earlier said he wouldn’t inject himself into the campaign).
Q; What will it take for you to say “we are in a recession”?
A: I’ve answered the question on the words. These are very difficult times, we’ll let the economists define it for what it is. Calls for making tax cuts permanent.