US & Canada

Barack Obama: No 'silver bullet' to reduce gas prices

An Exxon petrol station in Arlington, Virginia 31 January 2012
Image caption High gasoline prices in the US could become a flashpoint in the presidential election

US President Barack Obama has warned that there are no "silver bullets" for bringing fuel prices down quickly.

Speaking at the University of Miami, Florida, the president defended his energy policy and commitment to clean energy.

He hit out at Republican critics, saying their three-point plan to "drill our way out of this problem" would be insufficient without a wider strategy.

Mr Obama is vulnerable to attack in an election year for high fuel prices.

In Florida, average gasoline prices have risen to $3.69 (£2.34) per gallon.

'Licking their chops'

Mr Obama took aim at his opponents, saying that some politicians would use rising gasoline prices as a political opportunity.

"Only in politics do people root for bad news, do they greet bad news so enthusiastically. You pay more, they're licking their chops," he said, referring to a recent newspaper headline.

Spelling out what Mr Obama called his opponents' "three-point plan for $2 gas", he said: "Step one is to drill and step two is to drill. And then step three is to keep drilling."

Mr Obama advocated for an "all-of-the-above strategy", saying that in addition to exploiting domestic oil and gas resources the US should end its subsidies to oil companies, make the power grid more efficient, and invest in new energy sources.

The president emphasised that there were no "quick fixes" that could bring fuel prices down and that oil prices were vulnerable to global events.

Growing demand for oil in emerging markets and rising political tensions in the Middle East were making fuel more expensive for Americans, he added.

Mr Obama was addressing an issue that has been thrown into the spotlight and could become a target for criticism during an election year.

High fuel prices could also dampen the fragile economic recovery by increasing overhead costs for households and businesses, and dragging down consumer spending - a development that the president's political opponents would be likely to seize on, analysts say.

Mr Obama has also been slammed by Republicans for blocking the Keystone XL pipeline project that would run from oil sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas.

Speaking on the campaign trail this week, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Americans are "going to be hit with the same force of wind that hit us in 2008 in the summer that caused us to go into a recession.

"All because of the radical environmentalist policies of this president."

Some experts have said that the US economy could begin to suffer if fuel prices rise above $4 per gallon.