White House press secretary Jay Carney was forced to step into the 2012 presidential election Wednesday, dismissing claims by potential candidate Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Carney said that Barbour's belief that the Obama administration wants to see higher gas prices as a way of pushing Americans to buy more fuel-efficient cars was obviously a shot from a would-be political opponent.

"Those remarks were clearly made in the context of 2012 presidential politics," Carney said. "So I think you have to take them understanding that."

At a breakfast with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Barbour pointed to remarks made by Energy Secretary Steven Chu that a gasoline tax would prod Americans to buy more fuel-efficient cars. Chu made those comments in 2008 before Obama was president and before Chu was energy secretary.

"This administration's policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive," Barbour said.

Carney said that the president is concerned about rising gas prices as a result of turmoil in the Middle East and continues to monitor the situation because higher oil prices could damage the global economic recovery.

One Democratic official scoffed at Barbour's criticism, noting that in his significant time as a Washington lobbyist, the Mississippi governor and former RNC chairman lobbied extensively on behalf of oil and gas company interests.

"Barbour's made millions lobbying for the oil and gas companies in Washington, so his criticism of policy that would lessen our dependence on his clients products isn’t at all surprising," the official said. 

This story was updated at 3:48 p.m.