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Obama addresses gas prices, pitches energy policy

Updated 2:59 p.m. ET 

President Barack Obama confronted Americans' anxiety over rising gasoline prices by drawing attention to his energy policies and taking credit for rising oil production in a speech Thursday to students and faculty at the University of Miami.

With gas prices expected to rise throughout the summer, Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro discuss the effect high gas prices could have on President Obama's re-election chances.

Obama touted an energy strategy that the administration says will reduce dependence on foreign oil in the long term and called sustainable energy initiatives the only “real solution.” But Obama's pitch also carried a subtext: the federal government can do little to halt the current rise in gasoline prices.

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“The oil market is global,” the president said. “The single biggest thing that’s causing the price of oil to spike right now is instability in the region – this time around Iran.”

But Obama said developing new technologies to reduce energy consumption – such as those that use alternative natural resources like algae – is the real key to minimizing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and that that additional drilling will not solve the current problem.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

President Obama shakes hands upon his arrival in Florida to speak to students at the University of Miami about oil and gas prices in the U.S.

“I’ll save you the suspense – step one is to drill and step two is to drill, and step three is to keep drilling,” Obama said of Republicans’ forthcoming plan to lower gas prices.

The president also pledged to try and make available 75 percent of the nation’s offshore oil and gas reserves.

White House advisers believe Obama needs to address the recent spike in gasoline prices, even though they see it as a cyclical occurrence. The current $3.58 per gallon is the highest price at the pump ever for this time of year.

Obama aides worry that the rise in prices could reverse the country's economic gains and the president's improved political standing. A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that though Obama's approval rating on the economy has climbed, 58 percent disapprove of what he's doing on gas prices.

Republicans have seized on the issue, citing Obama's decision to reject a permit for a cross-country oil pipeline as evidence of a misguided policy. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has warned of $5-a-gallon gas, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said he could lower prices to $2.50 a gallon.

White House officials point to increased oil production and decreased consumption as evidence that Obama's policies are working and will lead to greater energy independence in the long run. But they assert there is little Obama — or any president — can do to change the trajectory of prices now.

Despite more domestic oil and less consumption, "these prices are going up, and that tells you that there are other things beyond our control, like unrest in the Middle East or other factors like the growth of emerging countries such as China and India," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

To be sure, oil and gas production has increased during the Obama administration, though the trend began during the presidency of George W. Bush, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The increase has reversed a decline that began in 1986, and the agency projects that by 2020 oil production will reach a level not seen since 1994.

The agency also has reported a drop in petroleum consumption, caused by the economic downturn after the 2008 recession, new efficiencies and changes in consumer behavior.

While in Florida, Obama also plans to raise money, including a $30,000-a-person event at the Windermere, Fla., home of Dallas Mavericks guard Vince Carter. An avid basketball fan, Obama will attend a dinner Thursday at Carter's house just three days before the NBA All-Star Game in nearby Orlando.

Obama also will attend fundraising events at the Biltmore Hotel and at the Coral Gables home of lawyer Chris Korge, a top fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

Last week, Obama took a three-day West Coast trip and raised about $8 million in eight campaign events.