Over the past 2 months, gas prices have spiked to above $4 a gallon, a far cry from the sub $2 gas prices of the COVID pandemic. Americans are facing massive problems at the pump as their household budgets are taking huge cuts to compensate for the rise. President Biden has been taking the majority of the blame for the rising gas prices but is it really the administration’s fault? As with most things, the answer is complicated.
To go back to where it all began, we must travel back in time to March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit the United States. Gasoline demand plummeted as Americans were put into lockdown and the average car user cut their usage roughly 50% from their pre pandemic usage. With demand at a serious low, gas prices dropped to a national average of $1.94 in April 2020. Gas suppliers had to slash production due to the decrease in demand. However, once countries started to open up again and the demand started to increase, suppliers had to start trying to play catchup which caused the initial increase in prices.
Fast forward to February 24, 2022, when Russia invades Ukraine. The immediate placement of sanctions on Russia, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers, caused a massive spike in the price of oil and gas. The markets panicked and gas prices in America hit highs not seen in years. Prices in the oil and gas market spiked almost 20% with barrels of oil averaging over $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. While the United States only imports around 3% of its oil from Russia, the rise in gas prices is a reflection of the global market rather than the domestic one. Here lies one of the principal problems in the rise in gas prices. While the U.S itself is not nearly as hard hit by the cutting of Russian energy ties, the rest of the world is and with how the oil markets work it ends up still hurting the U.S. The uncertainty caused by the conflict is still affecting the market and the market is likely not to settle down in the foreseeable future.
So where does President Biden play into this? The president has taken steps to help alleviate the pain felt at the pump such as releasing never before seen amounts of oil from the United States’ strategic reserve to help push prices down. Unfortunately, gas price averages are still hovering around the $4.30 range. President Biden is often criticized for his stopping of the Keystone XL pipeline which may or may not have helped the current situation. There really is no way to definitely tell whether that would have any effect as the true scale of its influence cannot be assessed. Regrettably, there is not much the president can actually do short of cutting the tax on gas or striking a deal with another major oil producer. So the president cannot exactly be blamed but also is not doing a good job at it (a common sentiment found throughout politics). Americans are just going to have to buckle up and brace for possibly even higher gas prices as the world struggles to adjust to the turmoil it faces.