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Buttigieg says there's no 'dial in the Oval Office' to lower gas prices


Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gas prices reached another record high on Monday while the Biden administration continues to deny any responsibility for rising costs.

The national average price per gallon of regular gas was $4.87 Monday, a new record high according to the American Automobile Association. Gas prices jumped 25 cents from last week's average of $4.62, and rose nearly 60 cents over the past month.

Industry analysts have predicted that gas could reach an average of $5 per gallon this summer, as Americans hit the road for vacations and demand for fuel surges, per CBS News.

But Biden's officials insist there's little the president can do to lower the cost of filling up your car.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday there's no "dial" in the White House that sets the price of gas.

He told ABC News' "This Week" that the president's decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "helped to stabilize global oil prices."

Buttigieg added that Biden's decision to suspend the Environmental Protection Agency's summertime ban on 15% ethanol gas could help lower prices. Permitting oil and gas companies to use 15% ethanol blends instead of the usual 10% should lower prices because there's less crude oil in the blend. But energy experts have warned the impact on prices could be minimal, according to the New York Times.

"We know that the price of gasoline is not set by a dial in the Oval Office," Buttigieg said, before asserting greedy oil companies were to blame for high prices.

"When an oil company is deciding, hour by hour, how much to charge you for a gallon of gas, they're not calling the administration to ask what they should do. They're doing it based on their goal on maximizing their profits," he said.

“It’s been very striking right now to see these oil companies, who have become almost ridiculously profitable, and you hear these oil executives on the record talking about how they’re not going to increase production,” Buttigieg continued.

“Why would they? They’re doing great right now, That’s why the president has called it a use it or lose it policy where, if you’re sitting on these thousands of permits and you’re not doing anything with them, then you’re going to be held accountable for them. So far, Congressional Republicans have blocked action to do something like that, but we think that’s another step that would make a difference.”

Buttigieg repeated an old assertion from the White House that oil and gas companies are not using their drilling permits. Industry experts have previously said this accusation is a "red herring;" that Biden officials were ignoring how the process actually works and that energy companies need to discover whether there is actually oil and gas where they've obtained leases before they can start to drill. They also have to obtain permits to drill, a process that could take years.

Oil and gas industry representatives have also accused the Biden administration of double talk on energy production. On the one hand, Buttigieg and other officials insist companies are not doing enough to increase production. On the other, the Biden administration is canceling the sale of some oil and gas leases and increasing regulations and fees on others, which undermines production.

High gas prices are a consequence of supply and demand. As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, there's more demand for gas because people are starting to travel again. At the same time there's restricted supply on multiple fronts — lingering supply chain issues from the pandemic, production that was shut down and hasn't restarted yet, and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine that has interrupted international oil and gas exports, to name a few

It's true that many of these factors are outside of Biden's control, but the president has responded by trying to make deals with anti-American regimes in oil-producing nations like Iran and Venezuela instead of ramping up domestic supply. Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia this summer to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite pledging to turn the country into an international "pariah" for the assassination of a prominent dissident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

While Republicans and oil executives have demanded that Biden open up more federal lands for drilling and decrease regulations so Canada can build more pipelines to the U.S., Democrats and environmentalists have opposed these measures because they would contribute to global warming.

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