By Ben Geman and Amie Parnes - 03/15/12 05:19 PM EDT
President Obama attacked the GOP presidential field in a speech on gas prices Thursday, portraying the candidates as “stuck in the past” and unserious about dealing with the nation’s energy problems.
Delivering his fourth speech on energy in as many weeks, Obama stressed that there’s no “silver bullet” for lowering prices and took shot after shot at "professional politicians ... who are running for a certain office."
The president called out his rivals on green energy and accused them of failing to see the future.
“They dismiss wind power," Obama said. "They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas-guzzlers. They think that’s good for our future. We’re trying to move towards the future, and they want to be stuck in the past.
“We’ve heard this kind of thinking before,” Obama said. “Let me tell you something: If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society; they would not have believed that the world was round.”
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week showed that 65 percent disapprove of Obama’s performance on prices at the pump, while 26 percent approve and 9 percent had no opinion.
Obama took a sometimes sarcastic tack toward his rivals in the address while dusting off the “Yes we can” slogan that was the refrain of his 2008 run.
“Every time prices start to go up, especially in an election year, politicians dust off their three-point plans for $2 gas. I guess this year they decided that they’ll make it $2.50. Why not $2.40? Why not $2.10?” Obama quipped during the speech.
“They head down to the gas station, and make sure a few cameras are following, and then they start acting like, 'We have got a magic wand and we will give you cheap gas forever if you just elect us,' " Obama said to laughter.
Senior administration officials in recent days promised Obama would continue to talk up his “all-of-the-above” approach on energy while responding to what they called false attacks on his energy record.
Obama touted his support for wider oil-and-gas drilling and noted rising U.S. production, while emphasizing that drilling isn’t enough and touting tougher auto mileage rules the administration has implemented.
"Do not tell me we're not drilling," Obama said, adding that domestic production has increased since he took office.
U.S. crude oil production has been steadily rising in recent years. But Obama’s foes say that he’s taking credit for increases on private and state lands, and the fruits of federal-lands leasing decisions made by his predecessor.
Oil production on federal lands and waters dipped last year, but that was after several years of gains, according to Interior Department and Energy Information Administration data.
Obama said he understood the pain that gasoline prices are inflicting on families, and repeated his call for Congress to repeal billions of dollars in oil-industry tax breaks.
Obama's address, which was labeled by the White House as an official speech, was filled with campaign rhetoric and came on the same day Vice President Biden delivered his first non-fundraising campaign speech of the season.