Pitching the promise of energy independence, President Barack Obama cautioned Wednesday that it's going to be tough to transition from America's oil-dependent economy and acknowledged there's little he can do to lower gas prices over the short term.
"I'm just going to be honest with you. There's not much we can do next week or two weeks from now," the president told workers at a wind turbine plant. It's a theme Obama's struck before as he
tries to show voters he's attuned to a top economic concern with gas prices pushing toward $4 a gallon.
Obama said he wants to move toward "a future where America is less dependent on foreign oil, more reliant on clean energy produced by workers like you." That will happen by reducing oil
imports, tapping domestic energy sources and shifting the nation to renewable and less polluting sources of energy, such as wind, the president says. He has set a goal of reducing oil imports by
one-third by 2025.
But the president said it won't happen overnight and if any politician says it's easy, "they're not telling the truth."
"Gas prices? They're going to still fluctuate until we can start making these broader changes, and that's going to take a couple of years to have serious effect," Obama said.
Obama needled one questioner who asked about gas prices, now averaging close to $3.70 a gallon nationwide, and suggested that the gentleman consider getting rid of his gas-guzzling vehicle.
"If you're complaining about the price of gas and you're only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know," Obama said laughingly. "You might want to think about a trade-in."
The president spoke at a town hall meeting at Gamesa Technology Corp., a Spanish company that makes giant turbines that use wind to generate electricity. According to the White House, it is the first overseas company of its kind to set up shop in the U.S.
As fuel prices rise because of growing demand worldwide and political unrest in oil-producing nations in North Africa and the Middle East, drivers are feeling pinched at the pump. Republicans
blame Obama and his policies and he, in turn, is striving to show the public that he gets it.
Gasoline prices rose another 2 cents Tuesday to a new national average of just over $3.68 a gallon, according to AAA and other sources. Obama's visit to Gamesa was his fourth energy event since March 11. He's scheduled a fifth for Friday in Indianapolis.
Obama argues that shifting to cleaner and domestic energy sources will help create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.
Education is another item on Obama's competitiveness agenda. That issue was to be the focus of a speech he was giving later Wednesday to the Rev. Al Sharpton's civil rights group in New York
Obama's appearance keeps a promise he made to the National Action Network when he spoke there as a presidential candidate in 2007. Obama pledged to return, win or lose.
AP National Writer Jesse Washington contributed to this report.