Shortly before he became President Barack Obama's energy secretary, Steven Chu declared, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe" -- which were around $8 per gallon at the time.
Has he changed his mind since then? It seems not. On Tuesday, during a hearing in the House of Representatives, Chu said high gas prices are helpful in spurring research on alternative energy.
A frustrated Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., asked Chu, "But is the overall goal to get our price" of gasoline down?
"No," Chu replied. "The overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy."
Well, if the goal is not to reduce budget-busting gas prices, then mission accomplished! We're closing in on $4 per gallon, and current prices are a record for this time of year. More discouraging still, the American Automobile Association says we may pay close to $5 this summer.
So Chu's goal of $8-per-gallon gas is not yet achieved, but the trend is moving in that direction.
The actions of bellicose Iran in the oil-rich Persian Gulf are part of the reason for higher gas prices, and the United States cannot snap its collective fingers and resolve that issue. But at the same time, the Obama administration is artificially hiking costs by restricting U.S. oil production. And what solution do some in his party propose? They want the president to sell oil from America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is supposed to be for genuine emergencies. That might reduce prices enough to get Obama through the next election, but it would do nothing long term to make gas affordable.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has a different approach: He wants to increase domestic production and bring gasoline prices down, not force them up.
Among the steps he would implement or seek quickly if elected:
• Strike down various bans on offshore and land-based drilling, boosting supplies, jobs and tax revenue.
• Get rid of market-distorting energy subsidies across the board, so that the best, most efficient energy sources can succeed based on real consumer choice, not on government picking winners and losers.
• Allow construction of the massive, job-creating Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to refineries in Texas. As it stands now, that oil from friendly Canada may wind up going to Communist China.
It is a myth that in the face of skyrocketing gas prices, all America can do is squander tax dollars on impractical wind and solar power and subsidies for things such as unpopular electric cars.
And it is encouraging that Santorum sees through the smokescreen.