Washington: High gasoline prices are the problem that President Joe Biden keeps trying to fix — and roughly a year’s worth of extraordinary efforts have done little to significantly lower costs.
With Biden’s latest push Wednesday to release 15 million barrels from the U.S. strategic reserve and consider additional withdrawals this winter, he’s telling frustrated voters ahead of the midterm elections that the White House hasn’t given up.
He rejected the notion that politics played a role in his latest action. But the issue has clear political implications as the president’s approval rating has moved inversely with changes in gasoline prices, which remain high despite coming down since a June peak.
“They’re not falling fast enough,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “Families are hurting. You’ve heard me say it before, but I get it.”
Biden has consistently said that high prices are the fault of Russia invading Ukraine at the start of this year. Any declines in gas prices — no matter their magnitude — the president attributes to his policies. Biden denied his latest move was about the upcoming elections, even though he told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this year that his approval ratings seem to move in the opposite direction from gas prices.
“It’s not politically motivated at all,” Biden said Wednesday in response to reporters’ questions.
The open question is whether the announcement makes a difference with voters in Senate and House races in November that could be decided by razor-thin margins. Biden’s announcement comes as gas prices have declined over the past two weeks. Yet a gallon of gas still averages $3.85, up from a year ago when Biden called $3.35 a gallon a strain on families and from roughly $2.40 a gallon during his 2021 inaugural.
Wednesday’s announcement completes the release of 180 million barrels authorized by Biden in March that was initially supposed to occur over six months. Biden also ordered the release of 50 million barrels in November 2021 and promised to investigate the possibility of price gouging.
The withdrawals have sent the nation’s strategic reserve to its lowest level since 1984 in what the administration called a “bridge” until domestic production could be increased. The reserve now contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil, a level that opponents say has more to do with Biden’s attempts to help his fellow Democrats than spur more oil production in the U.S.