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As Russia conflict pushes gas prices higher, House GOP leader blames Biden

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during his weekly on-camera press conference on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.
Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday sought to pin the blame on President Biden for high gasoline prices, though experts say that presidents can only have a limited impact on the global market. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, McCarthy said “the main reason Americans are paying so much is bad domestic policies,” while acknowledging that oil is an international market.

“These aren’t Putin prices,” he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched an invasion of Ukraine nearly two weeks ago. “They’re President Biden’s prices.”

The House GOP leader also took several other jabs at the administration and Democrats, including blaming the Biden administration for encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles and accusing it of hypocrisy for reportedly being willing to engage with Venezuela and Iran on potential oil imports instead of Russia, despite those countries also being governed by oppressive leaders.

This comes as the U.S. is facing historically high gasoline prices, with the national average exceeding $4.25 a gallon as of Wednesday, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). A month ago, the average was about $3.47, based on AAA data.

AAA this week attributed the jump to the conflict in Ukraine.

But prices prior to the conflict were still relatively high.

Analysts largely attributed that to mismatches in supply and demand as the world got moving again following the pandemic. 

Biden has taken some steps to limit drilling on federally owned lands and waters, but many of those — such as a 2021 pause on new leasing for oil and gas drilling — would be more likely to have impacts in the long term, since buying a lease is one of several steps companies have to go through to drill on public lands. 

Meanwhile, the administration has approved permits to drill on public land at a comparable rate to the Trump administration, according to a December analysis by Public Citizen

Additionally, most U.S. drilling occurs on privately owned lands, which have not been impacted by these policies. 

Republicans have nevertheless repeatedly sought to hammer Biden over high gasoline prices as they make their case to midterm voters that their energy policies are better. 

On Tuesday, President Biden announced that he would ban Russian energy imports — a move that could further increase prices at the pump, but which was cheered by Democrats and Republicans alike. 

Polls have found that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor banning Russian oil imports despite doing so potentially increasing prices. A Wall Street Journal poll published on Tuesday, for instance, found that 79 percent of respondents, including 88 percent of Democrats polled and 77 percent of Republicans, said they would favor a ban on Russian oil sales to the United States even if they knew it would lead U.S. energy prices to rise. 

A number of lawmakers from both parties have also signaled they support banning Russian energy imports to the United States.

Tags gas gas prices Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy oil Russia Russsia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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