In late 1973, an Arab-led oil embargo on several Western countries sent gas prices soaring, forcing Americans to ration their time behind the wheel. To conserve gasoline, a newly minted senator from Delaware voted in favor of capping the nation’s speed limit at 55 mph. Almost 50 years later, Joe Biden is overseeing a petroleum price crisis of his own making through his self-proclaimed “clean energy revolution.” As consumers face soaring gas prices, President Biden needs to pump the breaks on his punishing policies.
According to the AAA, the national average gas price has recently hit a seven-year high of $3.24 per gallon. The rise is being felt across the country, in both the highest and lowest cost states. Texas often enjoys some of the lowest average gas prices in America, but drivers have faced roughly a $1 per gallon increase over the past year. Meanwhile in California, where Sacramento imposes the highest gas tax in the country, the state average is up by approximately $1.20.
To make matters worse, increases in the price of gas are particularly regressive—meaning poorer families spend a greater share of their income on gas than their wealthier counterparts. Coupled with onerous zoning regulations in many parts of the country, which force lower income workers to live and commute from further afield, rising gas prices serve a punishing blow to household budgets.
Unlike during the 1970s, when rapid political developments in the Middle East sent domestic prices soaring, the current price squeeze is the slow accumulation of Joe Biden’s near-sighted policies. Since taking office in January, the Biden administration has orchestrated a broad campaign to disincentivize domestic oil production. Some tactics were explicit, such as (unlawfully) banning public land and water leases for drilling, mulling emissions reporting mandates from public companies, and vowing to slash oil and gas industry subsidies. Other moves were more subtle, such as re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and promising to pursue a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
Unsurprisingly, the campaign has drawn investors away from the oil industry. As Biden’s tenure goes on, the recovery of the industry’s investment is slowing and, despite high oil prices, investment remains less than three quarters of its pre-pandemic size. Meanwhile, due to the gap between global supply and demand of oil, late last month Goldman Sachs revised their end of year Brent crude forecast up from $80 to $90 a barrel.
Despite the price surge, the Biden administration has so far refused to take up the issue on the home front. Deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recently said that the White House was monitoring the situation, while the Department of Energy’s staff have walked back comments about tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Rather than supporting American workers, companies, and communities, Biden officials are seeking to outsource the opportunity by asking foreign producers to raise their production levels.
As gas prices rise, instead of tempering the crusade against domestic oil production, the administration and its congressional allies are doubling down. A raft of taxes, charges, and levies upon the domestic energy industry have been flagged for inclusion in the Democrats’ beleaguered reconciliation bill. Potentially banning energy-related drilling has also been proposed.
Measures to soften the blow of these policies come up woefully short. Advocates highlight that more than $34 billion could be allocated to support and expand the use of electric vehicles through the reconciliation bill. At least $10 billion of that figure would go to electrifying the federal or USPS fleet, however there may be spill-over benefits for the public, such as access to greater charging stations. Even if we generously assume that the benefit of this spending will be spread evenly across the country—a big assumption—these grandiose ambitions do little to support consumers in the interim. Until the fabled charging stations are built, and vehicle manufacturing undergoes its promised renaissance, commuting consumers will be gouged for gas.
The expectation that American consumers can spend tens of thousands of dollars tomorrow on an electric vehicle and then to jump on the electric Biden bandwagon is simply misguided. Moreover, draining family budgets through sky-high gas prices until they are bullied into buying a congressionally approved car is cruel. And what of those low-income families who can’t afford a ride into the Green New future? The cold indifference of Joe Biden’s “clean energy revolution” makes him resemble the Robespierre of renewables. The president needs to tackle the soaring price of gas and cut American consumers a break.