President Obama didn’t wait to take advantage of what looked to be a new Republican position on federal oil and gas subsidies. In a letter sent to Congressional leaders on Tuesday, Obama welcomed House Speaker John Boehner’s apparent newfound appreciation for the call to end taxpayer payments to oil companies, expressed in an interview with ABC News on Monday night.
“I was heartened that Speaker Boehner yesterday expressed openness to eliminating these tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry,” Obama wrote. “Our political system has for too long avoided and ignored this important step, and I hope we can come together in a bipartisan manner to get it done.”
Not so fast, Boehner’s office said.
“The Speaker wants to increase the supply of American energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and he is only interested in reforms that actually lower energy costs and create American jobs,” Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel said in a statement. “Unfortunately, what the President has suggested so far would simply raise taxes and increase the price at the pump.”
In his letter, Obama reiterated his strategy of ending government incentive programs for oil companies and then using the money saved to invest in alternative sources, which Obama has said will help lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign oil in the long run.
Underlying the politics of the letter and Boehner’s response are skyrocketing gasoline prices, which observers say will be a central issue in the 2012 elections.
As reported in Politico on Tuesday morning, team Boehner said the Speaker’s openness to talking oil subsidies was part of staying on the right side of that political hotbutton, which Obama has acknowledged will not be an easy one for any political side to solve.
“[Boehner] simply wasn’t going to take the bait and fall into the trap of defending ‘Big Oil’ companies,” Steel told Politico. “Boehner believes, as he stated in the interview, that expanding American energy production will help lower gas prices and create more American jobs.”