Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was asked to comment about urban and rural disparities in gas prices by a reporter who appeared to be implying a race-driven cause for the phenomenon.
April Ryan of TheGrio noted during a Monday press briefing that “there were some communities that felt the relief” as a result of President Joe Biden releasing millions of barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to reduce prices at the pump, while “other communities did not, particularly those in urban areas.” She asked Granholm to explain why “there was such a difference in communities with gas prices in one community versus the other.”
The official replied that infrastructure costs are a primary factor behind variances in fuel prices across the country. “Some rural areas, for example, or some who might be at the very end of a line or may not even have a line, they may get it trucked in. It takes longer and it’s more expensive,” she said. “If you’re not near a refinery, that’s another reason why the transportation costs are tacked on at the pump. So you’re seeing, for example, when refineries go down in regions, then the prices go up in those regions much more than they would nationwide.”
Ryan nevertheless continued to press the issue. “But specifically, the urban areas,” she asserted. “Because there was still a big pinch in urban areas with these gas prices when the outlying communities, particularly majority white communities, were seeing the drop to $3.00, and many of these urban areas were seeing $4.00 and $5.00 gas prices. Could you speak to that?”
Granholm noted that gas stations are typically owned by individuals rather than branded oil companies, affirming that local authorities should prosecute those who seek to profit from emergencies. “State attorney generals should go after because gouging is illegal,” she said. “You cannot take advantage of a crisis to jack up the prices in that way.”
The exchange between Ryan and Granholm comes as fuel prices remain elevated, worsening inflationary pressures faced by households. The national average price of gas is currently $3.45 per gallon, according to data from AAA, marking a 45% increase since the start of the Biden administration. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed on Monday that “House Republicans are using their narrow majority to force the American people to pay higher gas prices, just as big oil companies are amassing record profits.”
Fuel analytics company GasBuddy recently marked average gas prices at $3.96 per gallon for 2022, far surpassing the $3.02 per gallon average charted in 2021 and the $2.17 per gallon average charted in 2020. Even though GasBuddy forecasts that prices will drop to a national average of $3.49 per gallon in 2023 after approaching $4.00 per gallon by summertime, the reading would still rank among the highest years for prices at the pump in more than a decade.