Giving up on pump prices

By MATT WEIDINGER
Posted 6/21/22

With people rightly fuming over record-high gas prices, President Joe Biden recently announced his latest plan for fighting inflation, including elevated prices at the pump. But after months of …

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Giving up on pump prices

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With people rightly fuming over record-high gas prices, President Joe Biden recently announced his latest plan for fighting inflation, including elevated prices at the pump. But after months of failed promises that his administration’s actions would yield lower gas prices, he admitted that “we’re not going to be able to click a switch” and “bring down the cost of gasoline.”

The White House first responded to high gas prices on Nov. 23, when the average U.S. retail price for all grades was $3.49 per gallon, up over a dollar from $2.46 when the president was inaugurated. The administration argued that the increase was because “oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic.” Its response? Releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which the White House said would “lower prices for Americans and address the mismatch between demand exiting the pandemic and supply.”

Unfortunately for consumers, that didn’t lower prices as promised. Average gas prices rose to $3.62 a gallon by the time Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 of this year. On March 31, when the average price was up to $4.33, the White House announced more “actions to lower gas prices at the pump,” including the largest release ever from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But that didn’t lower gas prices, either. The latest U.S. average is $5.11 per gallon — up $1.62 since Biden supposedly acted in November and double the price when he was inaugurated. Some foresee prices over $6 by August.

In his recent inflation plan, as he has done since late February, the president continued to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Biden’s latest statements also do something new. They throw in the towel on previous claims of being able to lower gas prices. The best the president could recently muster was a lame statement that “we must mitigate” the effects of price hikes on American consumers, which is entirely different from prior promises to “lower gas prices.”

Other policies the president recommended include congressional action on “clean energy tax credits” (such as bigger tax credits for buying a new Tesla) that have almost no chance of passing.

After months of claiming his administration’s actions would result in lower prices at the pump, the president now seems to accept his inability to do so — at least without antagonizing the political base that cheered his campaign promise to get rid of fossil fuels.

After releasing his inflation plan, he admitted that “the idea we’re going to be able to, you know, click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term.”

That’s an abrupt reversal for a president who a few months ago said he had a plan to “ease the pain that families are feeling right now” at the pump.

Matt Weidinger is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (aei.org) in Washington.

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