Biden Blames Putin For Rising Gas Prices

Gasoline reaches record price in the United States 1:02

(WABNEWS) — The immediate political future of the United States will revolve around this critical point: whether drivers upset about record gasoline prices will blame Russian President Vladimir Putin or US President Joe Biden.

A staggering spike in the skyrocketing cost of fueling since Russia invaded Ukraine represents another blow to consumers already mired in 40-year-record inflation in the wake of the pandemic.

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And Biden acknowledged Tuesday that there will be more pain to come, telling reporters that his executive order banning Russian energy imports, signed Tuesday, will add to the pain over gasoline prices ahead of spring and summer break. .

“They’re going to go up,” Biden said as he flew to America’s oil zone in Texas, where he was visiting veterans. “I can’t do much right now. Russia is responsible.” The president’s offhand comment is unlikely to ease Democratic fears of a possible Republican loss in the November midterm elections.

And he offered Republicans another chance. The GOP is in the enviable political position of demanding that Biden stifle Russian energy exports, here and in Europe, while criticizing him for the inevitable hikes in gasoline prices.

The war in Ukraine created another extreme challenge for Biden, who entered office in the face of the worst public health crisis in 100 years and has seen his personal approval ratings plummet after failing to beat Covid-19 quickly last year.

The issue of gasoline prices sums up a dilemma that can often afflict presidents in times of international crisis. Biden is forced to take action in defense of critical global imperatives such as upholding international law, the plight of a people under ruthless bombardment, and the desire to deter a dangerous dictator. But he knows that his actions will have a detrimental impact at home. In the current polarized national environment and with only eight months to go until congressional elections, the handicap for the president will only be magnified.

Does Biden have viable options to reduce the price of gasoline? 2:49 Biden tries to stop the attacks of the Republican Party

Ukraine dominated Tuesday’s internal political exchanges in Washington amid a classic dispute on Capitol Hill over how best to advance a $14 billion aid package for the war-torn country this week.

The critical political potential of the gas price debate as the midterms approached shone through defensive messaging from Biden and other Democrats on the issue and a united front of attacks from Republicans.

The president delivered a fireside-style speech early Tuesday as he took aim at Russian energy exports, earning the trust of Americans with a direct address about the likely impact of his actions on their daily lives.

“Today’s decision comes at a cost here at home. Putin’s war is already hitting American families at the gas pump,” Biden said, noting a 75-cent-per-gallon increase in regular gasoline since the invasion began. . He has repeatedly blamed Russia for “Putin’s price gouging,” apparently seeking to insulate himself and other Democrats from Americans’ fury over price gouging.

But the president also appealed to something fundamental within Americans: their reverence for freedom, empathy for the oppressed and willingness to stand up to an autocratic Putin, even if they too must pay a price.

“I said that I would be honest with the American people from the beginning. And when I first spoke about this, I said that defending freedom is going to cost, it is going to cost us too, in the United States,” Biden said at the White House. .

There is early evidence that Americans will accept some personal hardship in defending the freedoms of distant Europeans and confronting tyranny, though they are hardly asked for the sacrifices demanded of earlier generations during the war-torn 20th century.

In a WABNEWS/SSRS poll late last month, 83% of Americans said they favored increasing economic sanctions against Russia after the invasion.

Biden tries to balance climate policies with the energy crisis

However, with the conflict expected to drag on for weeks, if not months, and with the Ukrainians showing no signs of giving up their resistance, it is unlikely that the sanctions on Russia that have caused oil prices to soar get up soon. That means months more pressure on American drivers. High gas prices are a special punishment for American workers who live paycheck to paycheck or those who have to drive long distances to work or school. Those costs may be amplified as Americans look to visit family or go on vacation as much of the country finally emerges from the pandemic.

So Biden also used his speech to issue a warning to another unpopular target: oil and gas corporations.

“We understand that Putin’s war against the people of Ukraine is causing prices to rise. We understand that. That’s self-evident. But it’s not an excuse to exert excessive price increases or increase profits or any kind of effort to exploit this situation.” or American consumers,” Biden said. “Russian aggression is costing us all, and this is not the time to speculate or raise prices.”

The president also tried to avoid Republican arguments that he contributed to rising gasoline prices with his environmental policies after recommitting the United States to the Paris climate agreement and making it harder for the country’s energy companies to produce oil. and gas.

He argued that a long-term strategy to shift the country away from fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy, a central goal of his presidency as he tackles global warming, also makes sense for American national security.

“If we do what we can, it will mean no one has to worry about the price at the pump in the future,” Biden said. “That will mean that tyrants like Putin will not be able to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations.”

Republicans launch a unified attack

But the Republicans, in a remarkable display of political discipline, albeit on an issue where their leaders are extremely fluid after years of political campaigning, cut short Biden’s strategy.

They largely ignored global factors left over from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine weighing on gasoline costs. And they accused Biden of leaving Americans vulnerable to energy shocks abroad by canceling Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline when he took office. They claimed that he doomed Americans to high gas prices by stopping oil and gas leases on public lands and by suspending oil leases in Arctic refuges to fight climate change.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, for example, said Biden’s policies had directly produced a record gasoline price that hit $4.17 a gallon on Tuesday. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa chided the president for talking about the need to develop electric vehicles. Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas pointed to reports that the Biden administration had reached out to American foes like Venezuela and Iran and estranged ally Saudi Arabia in an effort to bring more oil to market and ease prices.

“We don’t need to buy Russian energy, but we certainly don’t need to buy Iranian energy or Venezuelan energy,” Westerman said. “We need to produce energy in all forms and all types here in the United States.”

House Minority Leader Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, delivered a comment that is likely to haunt vulnerable Democrats into November, especially if oil prices continue to soar.

“The challenge is that President Biden still won’t say yes to American energy, because replacing that Russian oil is the really critical step,” Scalise said.

Democrats in the House sought to limit the damage, arguing, for example, that US oil companies had not agreed to thousands of approved leases that are available for further exploitation.

“This could be taking supply off the table,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, vice chairman of the House Democratic caucus. “President Biden has led this issue, approving more leases than his predecessor has in the past.”

It is also the case that some of the untapped US capacity is the result of long-term declines in oil prices before and during the pandemic, which made additional exploration a poor economic proposition in some areas for oil companies. And the idea that the US can pump and use its own oil ignores the complexity of global markets and the reality of supply and demand, which can be influenced by major oil-producing nations.

Still, in politics the simplest argument tends to resonate. That’s why it’s a long shot that voters will give Biden a pass on high gas prices, even if they support punishing Putin now.

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