Biden pledges to keep pressing for lower oil prices amid rise

U.S. President Joe Biden Source: Flickr/beemergirl99

President Joe Biden pledged to continue trying to lower oil prices that are running at a seven-year high despite his faltering effort to persuade producing countries to increase output.

“We’re going to work on trying to increase oil supplies that are available,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “But it’s going to be hard.”

The global benchmark Brent crude has jumped 25 per cent since the end of November to about $88 a barrel. Some in the market now think it’s now a question of when – not if – oil hits triple digits, somewhere it hasn’t been since 2014.

The Biden administration said Tuesday it was working with oil-producing countries to ensure supply rises to meet demand, and that the White House plans to continue to monitor prices in the context of global growth and hold discussions with OPEC+ countries as needed.

While Biden does have some options to address the increase in oil and gasoline prices that threaten the U.S. economic rebound and pose political risks for his presidency, many of them would be limited and would likely be short-lived. 

In November, Biden announced the release of 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a move coordinated with India, Japan, South Korea and China that marked an unprecedented effort to reduce prices and ease OPEC’s stranglehold on supply.

Biden cited that effort on Wednesday and its impact on gasoline prices. 

“You saw that brought down the price about 12, 15 cents a gallon in some places more,” he said. “But there is going to be a reckoning along the line whether or not we are going to continue see oil prices continue to go up in ways, going up now, relative to what impact that is going to have on the producers.”

Increased gasoline prices have been a major driver of inflation during Biden’s term, and the White House has sought to contain costs for motorists. Rising prices are hurting Biden’s approval rating and make it harder for Democrats to keep control of the House and Senate in November’s elections.

Retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have been climbing since the start of the year and now average $3.31 per gallon, according to AAA. Pump prices hit a seven year high in October but softened as the omicron variant crimped demand.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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