By Laura MacInnis
MIAMI (Reuters) - President Barack Obama hit back on Thursday at election-year Republican criticism of his energy policy, offering a staunch defense of his attempts to wean Americans off foreign oil and saying there was no 'silver bullet' for high gas prices.
Obama sought to deflect growing Republican attacks over rising prices at the pump, blaming recent increases on a mix of factors beyond his control, including tensions with Iran, hot demand from China, India and other emerging economies, and Wall Street speculators taking advantage of the uncertainty.
U.S. gasoline prices have jumped nearly 9 cents in the past week to an average $3.61 a gallon, and are expected to rise further toward the $4 mark through the summer driving season and the approach of the November 6 election.
In a visit to the University of Miami less than nine months before the presidential election in which he will seek a second term, Obama offered a modest series of proposals aimed at diversifying Americans' fuel supplies and increasing energy efficiency.
"It's the easiest thing in the world (to) make phony election-year promises about lower gas prices," Obama said.
"What's harder is to make a serious, sustained commitment to tackle a problem that may not be solved in one year or one term or even one decade."
Republicans seeking to dislodge Obama from the White House are seeking to pin the higher prices on the Democratic president's tax and environmental policies they say have hindered domestic production and kept the United States at the mercy of imports. They cite his decision to block the Keystone pipeline that would transport Canadian oil to refineries in Texas.
Repeating there would be no "silver bullet" for America's energy crunch, Obama highlighted steps already taken to expand domestic production and improve fuel efficiency.
The trio of proposals announced in Miami included a $30 million competition in natural gas technologies and a $14 million program to development algae-based fuel.
Obama repeated calls to roll back tax incentives for the oil industry, and urged Congress to renew a clean energy tax credit. Yet he acknowledged he was at odds with Republicans in Congress over energy. Lawmakers are deeply divided and little legislative action is expected this year.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Roberta Rampton, Timonthy Gardner, Ayesha Rascoe and Samson Reiny; Editing by Missy Ryan and Peter Cooney)