After spending most of last week, pumping alternative energy and his plans to help U.S. businesses compete globally, President Obama began this week right where he left off.
His first stop was the White House lawn, where he gave a 6-minute speech on China and promoting the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center his administration created 2 weeks ago.
From the Lawn, Obama accused the Chinese government of hoarding the rare earth materials that other countries use to manufacture things like advanced batteries for hybrid cars and cell phones. China produces those materials, and by not exporting enough of them (they have a quota), Obama claimed that China’s government is giving their companies an unfair advantage over U.S. companies and the rest of the world, breaking World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in other words.
“That needs to stop,” he said, while also telling the Chinese government “You will not get away with skirting the rules.”
The U.S. and other countries have been accusing the Chinese government of hogging resources, devaluing its currency, and distorting the market through Human Rights Violations and unfair subsidies ever since China started emerging. Obama announced a trade case against China over the rare earth materials during his speech, one he said the U.S., Japan, and European allies are bringing to the WTO.
How far that case will go depends on the WTO, an organization, according to the Wall Street Journal, that usually takes about 2 years to make a ruling. But with alternative energy becoming the next big thing on the market, look for Obama to keep the pressure up on China, so U.S. companies can compete on what he called “a level playing field.” Obama didn’t miss the opportunity to lump this into his overall strategy of weaning the country off of foreign oil, either, when he ended his speech by saying, “We have to take control of our energy future.”
With that, Obama was off to Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, where he gave a 30-minute speech demonizing the oil industry. He did the same thing in trips to North Carolina and Virginia last week. And once in Maryland, he pretty much stuck to the same script.
High gas prices leading to more expensive grocery and electric bills summarized his usual play on emotions. “It’s rough,” he told the crowd, saying it’s people like them who are held hostage to an oil industry that knows they have no choice but to fill their tanks up with gas every week. He cited the Payroll Tax Cut as a remedy he passed to help families deal with the price at the pump.
Then in a move that’ll probably have Republicans steaming, he equated rising gas prices with a tax hike, saying that tax payers are giving the oil industry a $4 billion a year subsidy to raise their taxes, and that it’s been going on for over a 100 years. “Does that make sense?” he asked the crowd. They let out a resounding, “No.” And Obama followed up with, “It’s time for the oil industry giveaway to stop.”
He then promised the crowd that he would put Republicans on the spot and force them to vote on ending those subsidies, saying the American people would get to see if Republicans stood with them or the oil industries. He also told the crowd they can make sure the vote goes their way by lobbying their Representatives. “Let’s get to work,” was his last message before exiting the podium.
This week Obama hosted David Cameron, England’s Prime Minister, for a state visit and held a number of other meet-and-greets, so Maryland was his only major stop. As usual, he finished his week off with the Weekly Address, where he continued pushing for more investments in alternative energies to compete with the oil industry. “Leveling The Playing Field” was this week’s theme. And Obama said his push for an all of the above energy strategy and his trade case against China were steps he’s been taking to make sure that the field is leveled.
Rep. Cory Gardner (Co) gave the Republican response. And he blamed current gas prices on Obama’s failed stimulus package, his denial of drilling permits, and his lobbying to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. He then asked that Americans consider one question: “After spending money we don’t have on what doesn’t work and overregulating what would, is it any wonder that gas prices have more than doubled under the president’s watch?”
That’s a question for voters to decide. And come November, both parties will be expecting them to turn out to the polls and make very a loud statement.