Steven Chu Forced to Recant Belief in Higher Gas Prices

steven_chu.jpg

The indignities are piling up for Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate Secretary of Energy whom environmentalists applauded as one of Obama’s best cabinet picks. His security detail won’t let the lifelong cyclist bike to work. And on Earth Day, he fielded questions like this one (via Talking Points Memo) during a House hearing on the proposed climate bill. Texas representative Joe Barton asked Chu where oil comes from, and the Energy Secretary delved into plate tectonics. Barton boasted afterward that he had "baffled" Chu.

I had a webcast of this hearing streaming in the background, and my ears perked up when I heard this exchange about gas prices between Chu and Florida Republican Cliff Stearns (starts at the 32:30 mark):

Stearns to Chu: Last September you made a statement that somehow we have to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe, which at the time exceeded $8 per gallon. As Secretary of Energy would you speak for or against any measures to raise the price of gasoline?

Chu: The Secretary of Energy, especially now in today’s economic climate, would be completely unwise to want to increase the price of gasoline. We’re looking forward to reducing the cost of transportation in the American family. This is done by encouraging more fuel efficient cars. This is done by developing alternative forms of fuel like biofuels that can lead to a separate source, an independent source of transportation fuel.

Stearns: You can’t honestly believe that you want the American people to pay for gasoline at the prices the level in Europe.

Chu: No we don’t.

Stearns: Your statement that gas prices ought to rise to the level of Europe, doesn’t that sound a little bit silly, in retrospect, for you to say that?

Chu: Yes.

Chu’s tongue may be tied for political reasons, but holding gas prices — and the gas tax — steady is going to make any push for transit a whole lot tougher.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Obama’s Energy Secretary Reclaims His Bike, for a Day

|
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was dismayed about having to give up his bike-commuting habit in order to join the Obama Cabinet, but security concerns didn’t stop him from participating in Friday’s Bike to Work Day in the nation’s capital. As the Wall Street Journal reports: Energy Secretary Steven Chu (center) with colleagues, before he joined […]

What Went Unsaid at Last Night’s Debate

|
At last night’s presidential debate in Nassau County, the best opening for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to talk about transportation policy came when undecided voter Phillip Tricolla asked the following question of the President: QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department […]

Same.gov: A Transportation Secretary Who’s Hard to Believe In

|
On Monday, Obama announced his "green dream team." Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wasn’t there. We’ve been calling around to Congressional staffers, advocates and insiders to get a better sense of what Obama’s appointment of Ray LaHood as transportation secretary means for those pushing for sustainable transport, smart growth, livable streets. While no one is giving […]