Hillary Clinton delivered the following remarks at a “Get Out the Vote” event today in Wake Forest, NC:
“Someone running for office, particularly running for the presidency, has to be able to deal with both the immediate, the urgent, the long-term and necessary.
“What I have tried to do in this campaign is to keep us focused on how we have to plan for the future, be prepared to deal with the economy, with energy, education, health care, our standing and position in the world, but also to deal with the date-to-day, because I have seen very personally the challenges that our families are facing now.
“These prices that are going up from gases, gas prices, to grocery prices, are really taking a big chunk out of people’s disposable income. I think that it’s imperative that we try to obtain some immediate relief. And what I have proposed would do just that.
“And there’s a big disagreement in this campaign. You’ll see it in the headlines about where both Senator Obama and I stand in taking on the immediate crisis that we confront.
“You’ve probably heard the debate about the gas tax, because my opponent is running ads and holding press conferences attacking my plan to try to give you some kind of break this summer.
“Now, it’s important to me that we come up with solutions, and in a campaign, sometimes that’s hard, because of the back and forth in the campaign. But it is important, too, for you to see clearly what it is I propose and what I would do. There is no contradiction between trying to provide immediate relief and having a long-term vision and a plan for what we must do to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and to be moving towards more home-grown fuels.
“So here is what I propose: I want the oil companies to pay the federal gas tax this summer. Now, some people say, well, that wouldn’t save the average consumer all that much money. Well, we figure we’d save about $70 for the average consumer. It would save a whole lot more for truck drivers, for farmers, for people who commute long distances to work, who rely upon transporting the goods they sell for their business. And it would probably save truckers $2 billion in fuel costs, just for the summer. And that’s $2 billion that wouldn’t go into the cost of the food that you go to the grocery store to buy.
“I also believe that we should make it clear that there is something not right about the way these prices are going up, and I would ask the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct an investigation to try to get to the bottom of this.
“And here’s why I believe this, and why I am urging the President and the Congress to really take this seriously. There was testimony by an oil company executive just a few weeks ago in Congress. When he was pressed, he admitted that probably if it were just market forces, the price of oil would be less than $100 a barrel. Well, we know its $120 a barrel. Another investigation in the Senate found that there’s about a $20 premium on the cost of oil, because of market manipulation by energy traders.
“Now, we remember energy traders. Back during Enron, energy traders deliberately drove up the price of electricity on the West Coast. I am convinced energy traders are driving up the cost of oil and gas right now in the global marketplace. And we need to close what is unfortunately called the Enron loophole, and start regulating energy traders again so that they cannot be basically taking advantage of the rest of us.
“I also believe we should quit buying oil on the market to put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The President of the United States runs the strategic petroleum reserve. The point of it is to have a huge reserve of oil in case of some terrible disaster. It is 97% full. We can very well stop paying for it at these high prices which drives the price up for everybody else, and I would even release some of it to send a message to the oil companies and the oil producing countries that we’re going to be serious going forward.
“I think if you are a leader, you have got to look at both the headlines and the trendlines. You’ll have in me a president who gets up every single day and worries about what is going on here in Wake Forest. I believe completely that there isn’t a problem we can’t solve in America if we start acting like Americans, and that requires us to have a president who is going to summon us to action again.
“This issue that we are facing today over gas prices, and the debate that my opponent and I are having over it, is really part of a larger difference between us. It’s something I hope you will think about when you go to vote – either voting early today or voting next Tuesday.”