Energy Department defends Chu from GOP gas price attack

But the 2008 comment has also surfaced in several other GOP attacks. For instance, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who may run for president, cited Chu’s comments at a recent breakfast with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in accusing the Obama administration of wanting to see higher pump prices.

Mueller said Tuesday that Chu “recognizes that the best way to protect Americans from high gas prices is to lower our dependence on oil – which is why we are investing in more fuel efficient cars, American biofuels, and electric vehicles that can go 300 miles.”

The 2008 Journal story noted that Chu, who headed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the time, “has called for gradually ramping up gasoline taxes over 15 years to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars and living in neighborhoods closer to work.”

But Chu backed off from supporting higher gas taxes during his Senate confirmation process to be Energy secretary in early 2009.

“The President-elect does not support, and neither do I, raising federal gasoline taxes as an energy policy. Instead, we need a much broader-based approach to transforming America’s energy future, and, if confirmed, I hope to be actively engaged in working with you and your colleagues in forging such a policy,” he said in a written submission to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Republicans are bashing White House energy policies at a time of rising gasoline prices that could become a political vulnerability for President Obama.

The nationwide average is $3.51 per gallon, compared to $3.12 a month ago and $2.75 at this time last year, according to AAA.