WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Tuesday that the Department of Energy deserves "better than an A-" for its role in reducing the price of oil and gas.
Asked at a hearing before the House Oversight Committee to rate himself on the department's role in reducing the price of oil and gas, Secretary Chu suggested that he deserved top marks, explaining the tools the department has at its disposal are limited.
"We are very aggressive in trying to look for alternatives other than petroleum," Chu said Tuesday. If adopted worldwide, he explained, such practices would have a moderating effect on oil prices worldwide. "We're looking at ways to develop natural gas," he added. "We can dramatically bring down the cost of electrification."
The Republican National Committee was quick to seize on the remarks, tweeting a video of his Chu's remarks with the tagline: "Can't make this up: Energy Sec Chu gives himself an "A" for handling higher gas prices."
While it's true that the price of gasoline, now at roughly $3.80 per gallon is nearly twice what it was in 2009, economists have been increasingly clear that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. And as Chu suggests, the best thing the country can do is to diversify energy in the long term.
"The truth is that we're already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping," author and economist Paul Krugman explained in a recent article. "If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither."
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) wasn't satisfied with that answer, calling Chu's plan "ridiculous."
"When will that take effect?" he asked of Chu's efforts to stabilize oil prices. "Before the next election? ... I have heard nothing from you today that will meaningfully impact the price at the pumps ... The policies this administration has put in place will actually increase the price of oil at the pumps."
He added, "The anger that my constituents have of the cost of oil at the pumps is very real. And if the president doesn't get this, if the Secretary of Energy doesn't get this, then we've got a real problem."
McHenry's remarks would seem to disregard economists' repeated assertion that oil prices are set by world markets.
Chu responded, "As you know, as we all know, you look at all the tools available in our chest, and we look at all those tools. But as the president has repeatedly said, there is no silver bullet."
Watch Chu's full remarks below.