Republicans have been wailing so much about higher gas prices somehow being the President’s fault, and yet as legislators, they have the power to actually do something about those high prices, whereas the President does not.
Republicans are so committed to this talking point that the New York Times was compelled to flunk them in a fact check entitled, “Republicans Wrongly Blame Biden for Rising Gas Prices.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki has been doing real-time fact-checking of Republican talking points brought to us by the seem-to-enjoy-being-schooled Peter Doocy, of the Republican Talking Points Fox News. Psaki has a good track record of sticking to facts, but a neutral fact-check is worth a lot. So here it goes.
“They have pointed to the Biden administration’s policies on the Keystone XL pipeline and certain oil and gas leases, which have had little impact on prices.
While Republican lawmakers supported the ban, they asserted that the pain at the pump long preceded the war in Ukraine. Gas price hikes, they said, were the result of Mr. Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the temporary halt on new drilling leases on public lands and the surrendering of “energy independence” — all incorrect assertions,” the New York Times reported.
It’s the Pandemic, stupid (otherwise known as Supply and Demand):
The primary reason for rising gas prices over the past year is the coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to global supply and demand… Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only compounded the issues.
Biden’s pro-environment stance has very little impact on the price of gas:
“Mr. De Haan said the Biden administration was “clearly less friendly” to the industry, which may have indirectly affected investor attitudes. But overall, he said, that stance has played a “very, very small role pushing gas prices up.”
Yet, a deep dive I wrote two days ago shows that Big Oil raked in huge profits in 2021 and is putting that money into their CEO salaries and shoveling it back to (perhaps unenthusiastic) shareholders, as investors were already soured on the Oil and Gas industry way before Biden took office.
We were projected to be “energy independent” (*as Republicans use the term, which is inaccurate and no one is actually claiming we are energy independent) even before Trump took office and exports reached record levels in 2021 (UNDER BIDEN):
Yes, the Biden administration is in talks with Venezuela and Iran regarding their supplies, “But the administration is also urging American companies to ramp up production — to the dismay of climate change and contrary to Republican lawmakers’ suggestions that the White House is intent on handcuffing domestic producers.”
We were projected to be a net energy exporter before Trump took office and in fact exports reached record levels under Biden in 2021 (emphasis mine):
“The notion that the United States gained “energy independence” under Mr. Trump, and reversed course under Mr. Biden, is also misleading.” Even before Trump took office, we were projected to “become a net energy exporter in the 2020s”. In fact, the US became a “net exporter of natural gas in 2018 and remains so today, with exports reaching record levels in 2021.”
Not such great news for environmentalists (for more on why this is, the Washington Post has done a deep dive here), but it certainly is not the story we hear from Republicans across the board.
We weren’t “energy independent” under Trump:
The Times takes issue with Republican claims that we were “energy independent” under Trump, writing, “That, too, is untrue. In 2020, the United States still imported 7.9 million barrels of crude oil and other petroleum products a day.”
Well. Things aren’t looking great for these talking points.
It is made worse by the fact that on Wednesday (the same day this fact check was written), UAE’s ambassador told CNN that it wants to increase production and will encourage you to do the same, which sent oil prices plunging yesterday. If this keeps up, Republicans will have to find a new scare tactic to run on in 2022, as one doubts running on taxing the poor and middle class and killing affordable healthcare and maternity coverage would get out the vote.
Biden’s attitude has no impact on Canadian owned Keystone XL pipeline, which also doesn’t produce oil:
The Times notes (as Jen Psaki keeps trying to explain to Peter Doocy,), “the specific policies cited by Republican lawmakers as evidence of Mr. Biden’s supposed “war on American energy” has had little impact on rising gas prices.”
Why? Well, just 8% of the Keystone XL pipeline that Republicans keep whining about has been built and the project was interrupted by legal battles (it is also not owned by the United States, it is a TransCanada/TC Energy operation). The Times dryly observes, “The Trump administration itself told PolitiFact in 2017 that the pipeline’s impact on prices at the pump “would be minimal.””
And of course, as Psaki explained at Doocy School on Wednesday, we are already getting that oil, the pipeline is a delivery mechanism, not an oilfield:
About those leases:
Things got even more brutal when it came to the Republican talking points about leases. “The claims about oil and gas leases are even more incorrect.”
We’ve gone over this before: Jen Psaki said it and it is true, “In its first year, the Biden administration actually approved 34 percent more of these permits than the Trump administration did in its first year…”
If Republicans really cared about high gas prices, they would tell their most devoted donors in the oil and gas industry to stop price gouging Americans and maybe even put forth legislation to pass a windfall tax on Big Oil, instead of blaming Biden for something over which he has very little actual control.
High gas prices are more about Wall Street than they are about the White House, according to CNBC: “Wall Street has pressed oil and gas producers to cut capex, and shift their cash to financial goals like down debt and boosting dividends, as well as de-carbonization, after investment in fracking led to billions in negative cash flow.”
I asked Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media, his thoughts about the current crisis and he told PoliticusUSA we could harness this moment to end Big Oil’s subsides:
“Big Oil spends millions on PR and advertising to try and pull the wool over our eyes while they gouge us at the pump, pollute our atmosphere, and fuel petro-dictatorships around the world. Every time you fill up at the pump, you’re filling up the pockets of Big Oil billionaires. We need to harness this moment to finally hold these accountable companies, end their outrageous subsides, and make them pay their fair share. There’s never been a more important time to stop oil profiteering.”
Republicans pushed President Biden to ban Russian oil, while they were pointing their fingers at him about high gas prices, which begs the question: Do they really want to hurt Russia (since we only get about 8% of our oil from them) or are they actually trying to hurt Biden.
If Republicans really cared about gas prices, they have the power to actually do something about it, but it would involve hurting one of their most reliable donors.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more .
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.