Obama in Indiana: Gas Prices Still High, but the Politics Have Changed

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Indianapolis, Ind.

On a swing through Indiana on Friday, Barack Obama made it clear that he still feels Americans’ gas price pain. Unlike his visit in April 2008, when he also commiserated with Hoosiers about rising costs at the pump, he didn’t blame George W. Bush or an energy policy drafted by Dick Cheney this time.

Another difference: Back in 2008, gas prices in Indiana were $3.60 a gallon. As the motorcade drove into Indianapolis on Friday, Obama passed three gas stations. Gallons of regular were listed at $4.17, $4.14 and $4.14, respectively.

“I know how tough it is,” he told a crowd at Allison Transmission, where he’d just taken a tour of the auto-parts plant and watched three demonstrations of transmissions being made.

Back in 2008, Obama’s gas price commiseration was been followed by a call for change in Washington. “We need a President who is looking out for families in Indiana and not just what’s good for multinational corporations, and that is the kind of President I intend to be,” he said. “Unless we are willing to challenge the broken system in Washington and stop letting lobbyists use their clout to get their way nothing else is going to change.”

On Friday, however, he focused more on his own efforts to promote clean energy, including federal funding that Allison Transmission had received to build new hybrid motors. Obama mentioned increasing reliance on natural gas, a proposed electric car tax credit, and stimulus funds that had gone the domestic car battery industry. “We are not going to stop making investments,” Obama said. “I want to make sure that the federal government is right here with you.”

Obama did reprise his 2008 attack on oil industry profits, pointing out that the top five oil companies are making many billions of dollars. “That’s with a b,” the President said. “And yet they still have a tax loophole is already costing taxpayers $4 billion a year.”

“If you are already paying them through the pump, we don’t need to pay them through the tax code,” he said.

Earlier on Air Force One, Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that there was no quick fix for gas prices, but said the President had directed Attorney General Eric Holder to monitor gas prices now that oil prices have begun to ease. He said the White House wanted to avoid a “rockets and parachutes” effect, where prices at the pump spike and then come down slowly, allowing oil companies to earn extra profits. “We want to make sure that a drop in oil prices is appropriately reflected in a drop in gas prices at the pump,” Carney said.

Minutes after the President finished speaking, the motorcade left again, back to the airport, for a flight to Kentucky, where Obama will meet with troops, including the special operations forces involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden. The gas prices displayed on the side of the roads were unchanged.