High fuel prices are the issue that President Joe Biden keeps attempting to address — and a year’s worth of remarkable efforts have done little to considerably reduce expenses.
With his latest effort on Wednesday to take 15 million barrels from the US strategic reserve and explore additional withdrawals this winter, Biden is reassuring frustrated voters ahead of the midterm elections that the White House isn’t giving up.
He denied that his recent action was motivated by politics. However, the issue has apparent political ramifications because the president’s approval rating has moved inversely with changes in gasoline prices, which have remained high despite falling from a June peak.
“They’re not falling fast enough,” Biden remarked during a White House speech. “Families are suffering. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but I understand.”
Biden has often stated that high prices are the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. Any decrease in gas prices, regardless of amount, is attributed to the president’s policies. Biden claimed that his latest decision was motivated by the forthcoming elections, despite telling The Associated Press earlier this year that his approval ratings appear to move in the opposite direction of gas prices.
“It’s not politically motivated at all,” Biden said in answer to reporters’ inquiries on Wednesday.
The question is whether the disclosure will sway voters in Senate and House races in November that might be decided by razor-thin margins. Biden’s remark comes at a time when petrol prices have been falling over the past two weeks. Nonetheless, a gallon of gas costs $3.85 on average, up from $3.35 a gallon a year ago when Biden termed $3.35 a gallon a strain on families and around $2.40 a gallon during his 2021 inaugural.
The statement on Wednesday completes the release of 180 million barrels ordered by Biden in March, which was originally scheduled to take six months. Biden also ordered the release of 50 million barrels in November 2021 and promised to look into price gouging.
The withdrawals have reduced the nation’s strategic reserve to its lowest level since 1984, serving as a “bridge” until domestic production can be enhanced, according to the administration. The reserve presently holds about 400 million barrels of oil, a figure critics say is due more to Biden’s efforts to support his fellow Democrats than to increased US oil output.
During the Florida Senate debate between Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Tuesday night, Rubio argued that the United States is “begging” other countries for oil while depleting its own reserves to support Democratic candidates.
“Our oil reserves do not exist to win midterm elections,” Rubio declared. “They exist to assist this country in an emergency or during a hurricane.”
Gas prices appear to be linked to the president’s political fortunes. Support for Biden rose from 36% in July to 45% in September, according to AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs polling. This time largely coincided with a drop in prices from record highs. Prices started to increase again towards the end of September, only to fall somewhat in subsequent weeks.
Biden also wants to allow for greater oil flows this winter in order to keep prices down. However, government officials refused to specify how much the president is willing to tap or how much domestic output must improve to terminate the withdrawals.
Biden stated that the United States will replenish the strategic reserve when oil prices are at or below $67 to $72 per barrel, which administration officials say will encourage domestic production by ensuring a baseline level of demand. Simultaneously, he reinforced his criticism of oil firms’ profits, reiterating a wager made earlier this summer that public disapproval would mean more to these companies than shareholders’ fixation on returns.
The offer to repurchase oil to replenish the reserve could be significant to voters since it could lead to increased production in the United States. This could mitigate Republican criticism that Biden should increase output by opening up more federal lands for drilling and approving the construction of transportation pipelines.
According to a Monday report by ClearView Energy Partners, an independent energy research business located in Washington, two states that could decide control of the evenly divided Senate — Nevada and Pennsylvania — are price sensitive to energy. According to the study, gas costs have risen above the national average in 18 states, which are home to 29 possibly “at risk” House districts.
In a follow-up analysis, Kevin Book, a managing director at ClearView, argued that the federal offer to buy oil for the reserve “may provide at-risk Democrats in moderate areas with a modicum of oil-friendly political baggage.” It may also provide President Biden with a pro-oil talking point before his visit to Pennsylvania, a production (and swing) state, on Thursday.”
The request to expand production continues Biden’s shift away from fossil fuels and toward alternative energy sources to meet U.S. and world demand as a result of interruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and production cuts declared by the Saudi-led oil cartel.
The threat of OPEC+ losing 2 million barrels per day — 2% of world supply — has prompted the White House to declare that Saudi Arabia has sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin, guaranteeing that there would be consequences for supply cuts that might prop up energy prices. According to the Energy Information Administration, Biden’s current 15 million-barrel discharge would not cover even one full day’s use of oil in the United States.
Even if voters demand cheaper gasoline, predicted supply increases are not occurring due to a weaker global economy. Last Monday, the US government revised its predictions downward, predicting that domestic firms will produce 270,000 fewer barrels per day in 2023 than predicted in September. Global output would be 600,000 barrels per day lower than predicted in September.
For Biden, the harsh math is that oil production has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels of around 13 million barrels per day. According to the updated government prediction, production will average 12.4 million barrels next year.
Biden stated that his pledge to replenish stocks should provide enough confidence for US energy businesses to boost up output, even as the administration pushes for a shift to renewable energy.
“We’re providing you with more assurance so that you can act now to expand oil output,” Biden said.