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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

OPINION:

When President Biden took office, the price of a gallon of regular gas averaged $2.38.

Today, it costs $3.92.


Mr. Biden has tried to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, calling the soaring cost “Putin’s price hike.” But by the time the red megalomaniac invaded, gasoline was already $3.53 a gallon. So Mr. Putin wasn’t to blame for that.

The president has taken countless steps to bring down the price, all to no avail. He released millions of barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), but nearly every analyst says that’s a short-term fix.

By the end of March, a gallon cost $4.23, so he tapped the massive reserve set aside for emergencies, authorizing the release of 125 million barrels of oil. But the United States consumes about 20 million barrels per day — Mr. Biden‘s release didn’t last long.

Prices leveled off a bit, running just above $4 for about five weeks. Then it started all over again: $4.62 by the end of May and an even $5.00 in mid-June.

Then prices, as prices do, began to fall again, dropping to $4.33 by the end of July. Mr. Biden took a victory lap, releasing a White House statement saying the Treasury Department “estimates that Strategic Petroleum Reserve releases by Mr. Biden and international partners reduced the price of gasoline by up to 40 cents per gallon.”

“I’ve been working to make sure that when the price of oil comes down, the price at the pump comes down as well and comes down in real time,” Mr. Biden said then, noting that pump prices had “fallen every day this summer for 38 days in a row.”

Economists, though, said the SPR release wasn’t the reason for falling prices. Prices had gotten so high that consumers simply stopped consuming.

After 99 days of falling prices, they started going up again. Last Tuesday, reporters asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about it all.

“You’ve said the president was responsible for gas prices coming down. Is the president responsible for gas prices going up?” a reporter asked.

“So, it’s a lot more nuanced than that,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “You know this. There have been global challenges that we have all have dealt with. When I say ‘all,’ meaning other countries as well have dealt with since the pandemic. There’s been [the] pandemic and there’s been Putin’s war. And Putin’s war has increased gas prices at the pump. We have seen that over the la- — past several months,” she said.

As prices started to rise again, Mr. Biden began to blame oil companies, even though he had taken credit for falling prices.

“Oil and gas companies are still making record profits, billions of dollars in profits,” Biden said at a meeting with the White House Competition Council in September. “My message is simple. To the companies running gas stations and setting those prices at the pump: Bring down prices you’re charging at the pump to reflect the price you’re paying for the product. Do it now.”

The Biden administration has gone as far as to tell U.S. refiners they should limit fuel exports, according to a letter Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sent to seven big refiners obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

“Given the historic level of U.S. refined product exports, I again urge you to focus in the near term on building inventories in the United States, rather than selling down current stocks and further increasing exports,” Ms. Granholm wrote in a letter to seven U.S. refiners in August.

But the refiners fired back. “Banning or limiting the export of refined products would likely decrease inventory levels, reduce domestic refining capacity, put upward pressure on consumer fuel prices, and alienate U.S. allies during a time of war,” the industry leaders wrote in response to Ms. Granholm.

Mr. Biden also stopped a lot of the progress of oil production that was being made in the U.S.

“Consider that in 2005, the U.S. imported 10.1 million barrels per day (BPD) of crude oil, of which 4.8 million BPD (~48%) came from OPEC. The SPR contained 685 million barrels. With the U.S. importing 10.1 million BPD of crude oil at that time, that was enough oil to cover 68 days of supply,” Forbes wrote.

And, of course, Mr. Biden even went to Saudi Arabia to beg for more oil (remember the fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?). He left almost empty-handed, save for one vague accord that said Saudi Arabia would “support global oil market balancing for sustained economic growth,” but never said how much petroleum would be released.

Mr. Biden said that he wasn’t there for oil but added that he and the prince “privately reached an understanding that oil-producing states would agree to increase output at an Aug. 3 meeting,” The New York Times said.

While the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in August announced a boost in output — 100,000 barrels per day — that didn’t last long. This month, OPEC decided there’s a glut in the world market for crude oil and announced it would slash oil production by 2 million barrels a day.

In the end, Mr. Biden deserves none of the credit — but all of the blame — for soaring prices at the pump.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.


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