NEWT GINGRICH ---- FIRE CHU!
By BOB KING and DARIUS DIXON | 3/1/12 1:45 PM EST
Newt Gingrich on Thursday called on President Barack Obama to fire Energy Secretary Steven Chu, citing congressional testimony this week in which Chu said his “overall goal” was to decrease U.S. dependency on oil, not lower the price.
“President Obama must announce today in his Nashua address that he is firing Secretary Chu and replacing him with a pro-American-energy appointment,” said a statement from Gingrich, who cited a POLITICO story about Chu’s appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
“If he doesn’t, then the American people will know the president is still committed to his radical ideology, which wants to artificially raise the cost of energy,” Gingrich added.
In a separate congressional appearance Thursday, Chu walked back his earlier comments somewhat, telling the House Science Committee: “We very much want to not only slow the price but reverse the price of increasing gasoline. … We definitely feel the pain that every American and business feels when the price of gasoline goes up.”
Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and the highest-profile DOE secretary in years, has increasingly become a lightning rod for the right over his statements about fuel prices. Critics have seized on comments he made to The Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2008 that “somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”
At Thursday’s Science Committee hearing, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) repeatedly pressed Chu to disavow his 2008 remarks. "Can you retract that statement now, or is that your goal and goal of the administration?" Sensenbrenner asked.
“That is not my goal —,” Chu responded.
“Then you retract the statement?” Sensenbrenner asked.
Chu replied: "Everything I’ve done as secretary of Energy is to first try to lower the prices by —we invested in ways to increase production. We’ve invested in other ways, in batteries and biofuels and efficiency to help the American public.”
During Tuesday’s Appropriations hearing, Chu expressed sympathy for consumers hit by high fuel costs and said his department is working to lower energy prices in the long term. But then Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) asked him: “But is the overall goal to get our price?”
“No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy,” Chu told Nunnelee. He added that reduced oil dependence and a diversified energy supply will “help the American economy and the American consumers.”
Gingrich put his own spin on those comments Thursday.
“Yesterday [Obama’s] secretary of anti-energy Dr. Chu literally testified in Congress that he did not favor lowering the price of gasoline, that they had no alternative policy to lower the price of gasoline and that his goal was to get us on to other things,” Gingrich said.
“Dr. Chu is apparently a brilliant scientist,” the Republican presidential hopeful said. “I'm for allowing him to go back to science as rapidly as possible. In fact I suspect the American people would chip in to buy the airplane ticket later on today.”
Meanwhile, in comments to reporters Thursday, Chu expanded on his earlier thoughts.
"One of the major themes, again, as I talked about the previous hearing two days ago, was that the administration, the Department of Energy, the president [are] very, very concerned about the rising gasoline prices and will do everything it can to help reduce those prices,” Chu said. But he cautioned, “As the president has said time and time again, there are no single magic bullets.”
Chu also passed up another opportunity to directly answer what he meant in his 2008 comments about higher fuel prices.
"I would say again and again, every action, every step I have taken as secretary of energy is to decrease the price of gasoline,” he said.
“If you diversify the supply so the transportation sector can go to natural gas, can go to electro-fuels, can go to biofuels without subsidy, that would be as good as petroleum,” Chu said. “These are things that actually moderate prices and gives businesses and consumers a choice. I liken it to beef and the price of beef goes up, you’re a victim to the price of beef. If you can go to beef to chicken to pork to pasta, you have many more choices."
Ginger Gibson contributed to this report.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 1:42 p.m. on March 1, 2012.