By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman - 03/12/12 10:27 PM EDT
Many liberal Democrats have called for reeling in "excessive" speculation that they say is the cause of high gas prices. President Obama said last week that he is re-forming a Justice Department task force charged with determining whether there is unfair speculation in energy markets.
In the interview, Obama stuck to familiar themes, touting support for expanded oil production but warning the country can’t drill its way out of its energy problems. He emphasized efforts to curb oil demand including tougher fuel economy rules being implemented and green energy programs.
The interviews are part of a full-court press by the White House to counter GOP efforts to pin the blame for high gas prices on Obama.
The interview – part of a series of eight one-on-ones with local news stations around the country – comes on the same day that new polling shows Obama is taking a political hit over high gas prices.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday found that 65 percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s performance on gas prices.
Obama said he understands why people might give him low marks but defended his energy strategy.
“As long as gas prices are going up, people are going to feel like I’m not doing enough and I understand that because people get hurt when they are going to that gas station and seeing those prices rise every day,” Obama said in response to a question about the new poll.
But the president, echoing his remarks in three energy-related speeches in recent weeks, said there are no easy solutions to high gas prices, which averaged $3.80 a gallon nationally Monday, according to AAA.
“First of all nobody believes that. That is just politics," Obama said of claims by Newt Gingrich and others that they can lower gas prices to $2.50 a gallon.
Energy analysts say federal policymakers have limited options to lower gas prices in the short term, as they are tethered to oil prices, which are set on world markets.
“Obviously what we want to do is get gas prices as low as we can, as quickly as we can, but the most important thing in order to do that is to reduce our demand of oil,” Obama said.
He noted rising demand in major developing nations like China. “We have to make sure we are adapting to that new environment,” he said.
The president also reiterated his long-standing call to eliminate billions in oil industry tax breaks.
“In addition there is no reason why we should be subsidizing the oil companies by $4 billion dollars every single year, money that we could better use to continue to invest in the alternative energy future that is going to be so important,” he said.