President Obama lashed out at oil companies in a major speech on Thursday.
"Right now, four billion of your tax dollars subsidize the oil industry every year. Four billion dollars," he told a crowd of supports in Nashua, N.H. "These are the same companies that are making record profits off of us right now—tens of billions of dollars a year. Every time gas prices go up, and you fill up your car, they make even more."
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Obama urged Congress to end federal subsidies to oil companies as a way to bring down record gas prices, though it is unclear how doing so would achieve that goal.
"You can either stand up for the oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people," he said.
The president’s remarks are in keeping with his rhetoric over the past several years. However, he once derided those who attack oil companies for cheap political gain.
"People want serious answers to these problems," then-Senator Obama said in 2006. "And if you're going to talk about energy, for example—you know, the easiest thing in the world is to look at Exxon Mobil's profits last quarter and say these folks are making $36 billion in one quarter, and the CEO is making $500 million, and gas prices are high, and we're getting gouged."
His numbers were a bit off. Exxon posted a profit of $39.5 billion for the entire year of 2006. The year before, the company’s CEO Lee Raymond received total compensation of about $70 million, which included salary, bonuses, and stock options.
Obama went on to say that while scapegoating oil companies can be good politics in an election year, it is not a substitute for serious policy proposals.
"That may be sufficient to get us through this election, but after the election, people then are going to say, okay, smart guy, what are we going to do about energy?" he said.
Veteran MSNBC political reporter Chuck Todd recently observed that "there is no issue that has been a bigger bust for the president than energy policy … he’s made no progress."