WASHINGTON — President Biden had strong words — a single word, in fact — for Republicans who have accused him of not doing enough to bring down gasoline prices from their historic highs: “Nonsense.”
He used the word twice in his remarks from the White House on Wednesday, which he used to call for a temporary suspension of the gas tax — and to offer a spirited counter-argument to political opponents who have blamed him for the $4.96 average price-per-gallon across the nation.
“My Republican friends claim we’re not producing enough oil and that I am limiting oil production. Quite frankly, that’s nonsense,” Biden said during his speech, noting that the United States is now producing some 12 million oil barrels per day, making the current average for his administration slightly higher than that for his predecessor Donald Trump.
Also “nonsense,” according to the president, are Republican claims that he has constrained drilling on federal lands. “The industry has more approved permits for production on federal lands than they can possibly use,” the president said. His administration, however, has not yet approved new leases on federal lands. (A forthcoming planned lease sale has been delayed until later this month.)
Biden took office seeking to reorient the United States around renewable sources of energy, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has caused convulsions in global petroleum markets that the president’s critics say he should have responded to more quickly and aggressively.
Suspending the gas tax throughout the travel-heavy summer months would lower gas prices by 18 cents (and 25 cents for diesel), but it requires congressional approval. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, usually a supporter of the president, offered what could best be described as tepid support for his plan.
“We will see where the consensus lies,” she said in a statement.
In response to Pelosi’s statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described talks as being at “the beginning of the process.”
Republicans are also opposed to the measure, with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., describing the gasoline tax as “a gimmick that won’t work” – one that, he noted, former President Barack Obama had once opposed.
Biden also called on states to suspend their own gas taxes, a proposal that some Democrats had previously asked for. He also argued, as he had before, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was largely responsible for the soaring prices at the pump. The argument is not new, but this time it was accompanied with a question to his GOP counterparts: “For all those Republicans in Congress criticizing me for high gas prices in America, are you now saying we were wrong to support Ukraine?
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has sought to frame inflation — in particular, the prices of energy and food — as a global problem that has little to do with domestic politics or Democratic green energy imperatives.
At a White House press briefing later on Wednesday afternoon, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm pointed out that other nations were suffering even higher prices: $7.71 in the United Kingdom and $8.49 in France.
“This is a global problem,” Granholm said. “This is happening around the world.”