The decade's most triggering comedy
As national average gas prices fell below $4.00 per gallon for the first time in months, White House officials and members of the media downplayed the broader context of record-high prices in a manner favorable to President Joe Biden.
Prices at the pump dropped to $3.99 as of Thursday, according to AAA, while figures from the Energy Information Administration show that prices were $3.53 in the days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and more than $5.00 per gallon in early June. Nevertheless, gasoline was $2.39 per gallon in late January 2021 — meaning that current prices are 67% higher than at the beginning of Biden’s term, with more than 70% of the total increase occurring before the Russian invasion.
Top officials in the White House spun the development as a victory for Biden. National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, for instance, told CNN that the somewhat lower prices reflect “meaningful savings people are going to feel in their lives,” adding that consumers can expect prices to “fall a bit more.”
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on social media that the United States has seen “another day of falling gas prices” as the Senate works on “inflation-fighting legislation” — a reference to the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act.
Likewise, media reports downplayed the broader context of the somewhat lower prices while casting the development as largely positive.
“Gasoline prices dipped to just under the $4 mark for the first time in more than five months — good news for consumers who are struggling with high prices for many other essentials,” reported the Associated Press. “Republicans blame President Joe Biden for the high gasoline prices, seizing on his decisions to cancel a permit for a major pipeline and suspend new oil and gas leases on federal lands. Biden said over the weekend that a family with two cars is saving $100 a month because prices have dropped from their peak in mid-June.”
“Energy costs feed into broad measures of inflation, so the drop is also good news for policymakers who have struggled to contain the price increases and for President Biden, who has pledged to lower gas costs,” The New York Times commented. “Regardless of the causes, the lower prices are a welcome change for drivers for whom the added expense — often $10 to $15 extra for a tank of gas — had become yet another hurdle as they sought to get their lives back to normal as the coronavirus pandemic eases.”
When gas prices were rising, however, Biden pinned the blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin’s Price Hike hit hard in May here and around the world: high gas prices at the pump, energy, and food prices accounted for around half of the monthly price increases, and gas pump prices are up by $2 a gallon in many places since Russian troops began to threaten Ukraine,” Biden said in a June statement. “Even as we continue our work to defend freedom in Ukraine, we must do more — and quickly — to get prices down here in the United States.”
The White House, which nixed expansions to the Keystone XL pipeline last year, is dragging its feet on issuing oil and gas permits. Meanwhile, it claims that higher fuel costs may help the U.S. transition more quickly to renewable energy.