Conservation and alternative energy sources have their places. But our economy runs on oil.
It was an impolitic statement to make, particularly in an election year, but give President Obama's Secretary of Energy Steven Chu credit for candor.
Millions of Americans are unhappy with high gasoline prices — roughly $4 a gallon and expected to go higher — but Chu is not one of them.
In recent congressional testimony, Chu was asked if one of the Obama administration's energy goals is to get gasoline prices down.
"No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy. We think that if you consider all these energy policies, including energy efficiency, we think that we can go a long way to becoming less dependent on oil and (diversifying) our supply, and we'll help the American economy and the American consumers," Chu told a U.S. House subcommittee on energy and water.
In other words, high gas prices discourage consumers from buying and the higher gas prices go the more discouraged consumers will be from buying. Plus, the higher the price of gasoline, the better the chances are that other energy sources — solar, wind, etc. — will become economically viable.
The position that Chu outlined is little different from his position before he joined the Obama administration. He wants gasoline prices to go up because he wants less oil consumed.
"Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to levels in Europe," he said in 2008.
There is no doubt that Chu's testimony represents the official policy of the Obama administration. But it leaves many Americans hanging out to dry.
Unfortunately, there is no viable alternative to oil consumption for many years to come. So the higher the price of oil, the more damage is done not just to the economy as a whole but to individuals who see larger shares of their income consumed by energy costs.
Make no mistake about it — the increasing price of oil is a threat to the weak economic recovery that is under way.
That's why supporters of energy exploration have been so frustrated by the Obama administration's repeated efforts to slow down or block the development of our domestic energy supplies.
What this country needs to do is not reduce our dependence on oil, but on foreign countries as suppliers of our oil. Secretary Chu, of course, doesn't see it that way, and his position will play a role.