NASHUA, New Hampshire — President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States is making progress in curbing its dependence on imported petroleum as he defended his energy policy in the face of criticism from Republican rivals.
Speaking in New Hampshire, Obama sought to deflect election-year charges that he is to blame for high gasoline prices and that costs would come down if Obama were to adopt a stronger domestic drilling policy.
"Anybody who tells you that we can just drill our way out of this problem does not know what they're talking about or they're not telling you the truth," Obama said.
The president said that during his tenure, the United States has cut the percentage of imported oil it uses to less than 50 percent for the first time in 13 years -- and displayed a chart to illustrate his point.
"We're making progress. And you can see it in this chart," he said.
"The bar on the left shows that six years ago, 60 percent of the oil we used was imported. Since I took office, America's dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year. Every single year. In fact, in 2010, it was under 50 percent for the first time in 13 years."
Obama said he intends to maintain a broad "all-of-the-above strategy" on energy which includes "not just oil and gas, but also wind and solar and biofuels."
The comments come with Obama under fire from political opponents as motor fuel prices are topping $4.00 a gallon (3.8 liters) in many parts of the country.
Obama said some of the factors affecting fuel prices are instability in the Middle East and strong demand from China.
"And when uncertainty increases, speculation on Wall Street can drive up prices even more," he said.
"So when you start hearing a bunch of folks saying somehow that there's some simple solution, you can turn a nozzle and suddenly we're going to be getting a lot more oil, that's not just how it works," Obama added.
"Over the long term, the biggest reason oil prices will rise is because of growing demand in countries like China and India and Brazil."
Reaction came swiftly from Republican House speaker John Boehner.
"Democrats have already acknowledged that the idea the president discussed today won't lower gas prices," Boehner said.
"Republicans are focused on an all-of-the-above energy policy, and I remain hopeful the president will follow through on his commitment to work with us to increase the supply of American-made energy."
Obama has maintained that the government should end tax loopholes worth billions of dollars for oil companies which he called "outrageous" and "inexcusable" but Republicans argue that this move would be an effective tax increase that would hurt energy production.