"This is a very large problem," Josh Bolten said on "Fox News Sunday" in his first interview since taking over April 14 as Mr. Bush's top aide. "It's built up over many years — decades, in fact. It's not going to be solved in the short run by some silver bullet."
Administration officials, on the Sunday talk shows, drove home the importance of reducing U.S. consumption of foreign oil. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it a "trap" and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman acknowledged that rising gas prices had become a crisis. But he suggested that finding short-term fixes to soothe consumers angered by pump prices topping $3 per gallon might be difficult.
"The suppliers have lost control of the market. Demand exceeds supply," Bodman said, citing demand worldwide from China, Indian and other growing economies. "Clearly, we're going to have a number of years — two to three years — before suppliers are in a position to meet the needs of demands."
But on CBS' Face The Nation, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said there could be a legislative solution to the price inflation.
"We want to make sure that there is a strong law on the books that looks at the wholesale price of gasoline, because we have a question about whether gasoline is being exported out of the country for a cheaper price just to drive up the cost here in the United States," the member, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said. "And there's been some evidence of that."
Rice left the impression that the president is not going to take action against oil-producing nations for high prices through the World Trade Organization, as some lawmakers have urged.
She said the United States is encouraging oil-rich countries to increase production, but the long-term solution is to diversify sources of energy.
"We need to deal with the long-term problems of technologies that may get us out of this trap," Rice said on ABC's "This Week." "But I can tell you that if anything has surprised me as secretary of state, it is the degree to which the kind of search for hydrocarbons is distorting international politics. That means that the quicker we get about the business of reducing our reliance on oil, the better we're going to be."
Bolten said he didn't know how much the president's plan would lower the price of a gallon gas. "I expect the effects would be relatively modest," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"All of those policies need to come together because we need to leave behind a legacy in which this country is headed toward weaning itself from its dependence on foreign oil," he said. "We've been going in the wrong direction for years, for decades."
Mr. Bush said last week that he wants Congress to give him the power to raise fuel efficiency standards for cars. The fleet average of 27.5 miles per gallon has not changed for two decades.