Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 20, 2008
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Naples, Florida
10:22 A.M. EDT
MR. FRATTO: Good morning. As Dana would say, we're on our way to Naples, Florida. The President taped the radio address this morning. In the President's radio address, he'll reiterate his call for Congress to lift its ban on oil drilling in ANWR -- that's the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- and in the Outer Continental Shelf -- call on them to remove its block on oil shale leasing, and expand and enhance our refining capacity so we can meet the energy challenges we face.
Here's a quote from the radio address: "If congressional leaders leave for the 4th of July recess without taking action they will need to explain why $4-a-gallon gasoline is not enough incentive for them to act."
The President also had his normal briefings this morning. At 1:00 p.m., the President attends a Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart Florida Victory Committee Luncheon. It's at a private residence in Naples, Florida. At 5:40 p.m., the President attends an Elect Pat McCrory for Governor and North Carolina Republican State Executive Committee Reception. It's in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then we return to the White House at 8:20 p.m.
One thing, I saw some news coverage this morning on the number of Americans out there who have not yet filed their income tax returns to receive their rebate checks. And I just want to reiterate our calling for -- say this a number of times from the White House and from the podium for Americans, especially senior citizens and veterans out there who don't normally file for income tax returns, to make sure they go out there and file so that they can get their rebate from the stimulus checks.
Q Tony, I know you've been asked this at least once before this morning, but can you talk a little bit more now about that New York Times report on the Israel doing a dress rehearsal for --
MR. FRATTO: I don't have anything on that.
Q Can you say why you can't comment?
MR. FRATTO: It's an -- on operational matters like that I just don't have any comment.
Q Is Defense commenting?
MR. FRATTO: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Is the administration concerned about McClellan testifying today?
MR. FRATTO: Concerned? I don't know. I think -- I think Scott has probably told everyone everything he doesn't know, so I don't know if anyone should expect them to see anything new today.
Q On the oil front, it doesn't seem likely that Congress is going to move to lift the ban on drilling. So -- in the near term anyway. So is there anything else that the President is contemplating, any other actions to help bring down the price of oil?
MR. FRATTO: Well, we're always looking at the markets. As you know, there's a meeting this weekend in Saudi where producers and consumers will have an opportunity to discuss what's going on in the oil markets, and Secretary Bodman is going there. We always continue to look for ways that we can try to get more supply into the market, of course. I don't have anything to announce right now.
But there's no question that I think a number of members of Congress are probably rethinking the policy on the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR, and certainly with respect to leasing and refineries, especially as they go home and they hear from the constituents in their districts. Americans are increasingly concerned. I think if you'd asked Americans two, three or four years ago what their views were on drilling in certain areas, it probably wasn't as popular then either. It is now, because I think most Americans understand the common sense that if prices are rising rapidly and supply is short, and we are finding ourselves dependent on foreign and maybe unreliable sources of energy, then what we ought to be doing is trying to increase that output here at home, especially if we know there are sources of oil and other forms of energy here.
Q Durbin said on the floor the other day that there's oil leases on millions and millions of acres offshore that are just not being used and not being tapped. Why not --
MR. FRATTO: There are lots of reasons. I mean, one is that you don't just drop a drill into -- whether it's offshore or on property -- and hope that oil comes out. It takes years and years of geological study, environmental impact regulations that you have to deal with. You want to make sure there is actually oil there that you can go out and extract and bring to market.
So it's a very long process, it's a very expensive process. There are other places out there like the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR where we know, in fact, that there are -- there is oil there that can be brought to market. But the first step in all of this is exploration. And even on those existing leases, you still need to go out and explore, and that takes lots and lots of time.
Q But it seems like those existing leases are far more down the pipe than ANWR or any other spaces that aren't even opened up. Why not follow those leads first?
MR. FRATTO: I'm sure some of them are, but it's not a question of, why not do something first; it's why don't we do everything that we can do. And when oil is at $130 or approaching $140 a barrel and Americans are paying $4, on the way to $5 a gallon for gasoline, they don't want to hear that we're doing things one at a time. They want to hear that we're doing everything that we can possibly be doing to help them bring down those prices.
Q Is there anything the administration can do immediately on the consumption front, that is not exploration, but --
MR. FRATTO: In terms of demand? There's a lot that we're doing. In fact, we just did it. We just passed --
Q -- more that you can do.
MR. FRATTO: We just passed an energy bill last year that's aggressively increasing the fuel economy standards for automobiles. Now, some of that takes time, obviously. You have rolling stock out there in the economy that you need to work through, but Americans are making their own choices. I think we saw some data out this week in terms of consumption demand from Americans in terms of how much less gasoline they're using, either because they're choosing not to drive as much, or driving shorter distances, and they're making their own choices, or purchasing automobiles that are more fuel efficient.
So Americans are making those choices. We've also made -- helped to make those choices for the nation structurally in terms of our fuel economy standards, our increase in alternative fuels for automobiles, and the promotion of hybrid vehicles.
Q Is there more that can be done that the administration is contemplating in the short term? That was last year's bill -- gas was $3 at the time.
MR. FRATTO: That was a bill that was passed last year that is coming into effect now as we speak.
Q Are you considering additional measures --
MR. FRATTO: There is no -- we've said this many, many times -- if you're looking for any measure that would significantly reduce gasoline prices over a period of weeks or months, those tools just don't exist. That can only take place over the long term -- except for the choices of individual Americans to just reduce the amount of gasoline they use.
Q Have the week ahead?
MR. FRATTO: Yes, week ahead. Let's see, the President will be in Washington this weekend. On Monday, June 23rd, the President participates in a photo opportunity and remarks to the Phoenix Mercury. This is in the East Garden of the White House; open press. At 2:50 p.m. in the afternoon on Monday, the President participates in a photo opportunity with the 2008 Presidential Scholars. That's at the South Portico and it's open for stills.
On Tuesday, June 24th, the President meets with the President of the Republic of the Philippines in the Oval Office; pool at the bottom. At 1:10 p.m., the President meets with the Prime Minister of Vietnam; Oval Office, pool at the bottom. At 4:05 p.m., the President makes remarks to the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Sports Champions; it's on the South Lawn of the White House, open press. I don't have a list right now of who all those champions are, but we'll try to get them for you.
Q That's Tuesday?
MR. FRATTO: That's on -- yes, Tuesday, at 4:05 p.m. And then at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, the President attends a RNC reception; it's at a private residence in McLean, Virginia.
MR. FRATTO: Private residence in McLean, Virginia.
Wednesday, June 25th, at 4:40 p.m. in the afternoon, the President attends a Max M. Fisher National Republican Award Dinner. It's at Laurel Manor in Livonia, Michigan; pool for camera, open for correspondents.
On Thursday, June 26th, 8:25 a.m., the President makes remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast; JW Marriot, open press. At 1:00 p.m. that afternoon, the President makes remarks to the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives' National Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel; open press. He'll overnight at Camp David and be there through Sunday.
Q So he's there all day Friday?
MR. FRATTO: Right.
Q Is that a down --
MR. FRATTO: He'll be there through -- he'll be in Camp David Friday night, Saturday night, and --
Q I missed Friday -- Thursday night?
Q Thursday night and Friday night?
MR. FRATTO: What did I say? Oh, that's right -- Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night overnight in Camp David. Sunday he returns to --
Q Is Friday a down day or is he doing business up there?
MR. FRATTO: I'll let you know if we have more.
Q Wednesday is Michigan -- is it a day trip? Livonia -- whatever --
MR. FRATTO: Livonia.
Q Thank you.
MR. FRATTO: Okay, thanks.
END 10:33 A.M. EDT
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