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Obama sees no magic bullet to push down gas prices


Employee Josh Watkins changes gas prices on a sign at a Sunoco station in Alexandria, Virginia April 12, 2011. REUTERS/Molly Riley
Employee Josh Watkins changes gas prices on a sign at a Sunoco station in Alexandria, Virginia April 12, 2011. REUTERS/Molly Riley

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Barack Obama told Americans on Saturday there is no "magic bullet" to bring down high gasoline prices and said he wants to end what he called $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies.

Obama is feeling the heat from gasoline prices that are about $4 a gallon and may surge higher. A New York Times-CBS News poll found that 70 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and analysts believe gas prices are a main reason.

The president devoted his weekly radio and Internet address to outlining his views on the U.S. energy predicament, saying clean energy is ultimately the way forward for a country long addicted to gas-guzzling vehicles.

"Now, whenever gas prices shoot up, like clockwork, you see politicians racing to the cameras, waving three-point plans for $2 gas. You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points. The truth is, there's no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away," he said.

Obama, in the early stages of his 2012 re-election campaign, has been seeing steady improvement in the U.S. economy. But rising gasoline prices are forcing Americans to pay more out of their income, which some fear could harm the fragile economic recovery.

Obama said it is time to eliminate what he called $4 billion in annual "taxpayer subsidies" to oil and gas companies.

"That's $4 billion of your money going to these companies when they're making record profits and you're paying near record prices at the pump. It has to stop," he said.

The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a working group of federal agencies to probe potential fraud in the energy markets that affects pump prices, including actions by speculators.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Obama accused Republicans of seeking to cut 70 percent in government spending to encourage development of clean energy projects.

"Instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow's. We need to invest in clean, renewable energy," he said.

"Yes, we have to get rid of wasteful spending -- and make no mistake, we're going through every line of the budget scouring for savings. But we can do that without sacrificing our future," he added.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in response to the president that the Obama administration over the past two years has "declared what can only be described as a war on American energy."

"It's canceled dozens of drilling leases, imposed a moratorium on drilling off the Gulf Coast and increased permit fees. It's done just about everything it can to keep our own energy sector from growing," McConnell said.

McConnell said more must be done to increase domestic oil production.

The comments by Obama and McConnell came three days after the anniversary of the giant BP Plc oil spill off the coast of Louisiana that caused economic and environmental harm to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

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