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President Biden conceded that his administration is not able to strongly influence rising gas prices, in comments to reporters on Tuesday.
“They’re gonna go up,” Biden said of gas prices after landing for a visit in Fort Worth, Texas. The average price of a gallon of gas hit a 14-year high of $4.009 on Sunday, according to AAA.
“Can’t do much right now,” Biden said when asked what he can do about the situation. “Russia is responsible.”
Biden’s remarks come hours after he announced a U.S. ban on Russian energy imports including oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal. The ban comes amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“The decision today is not without cost here at home. Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump,” Biden said on Tuesday morning. The president added that he is doing “everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home,” including releasing oil from the strategic reserves of the U.S. and allies.
About 8 percent of all oil and petroleum imports to the U.S. in 2021 came from Russia, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Biden administration was initially hesitant to block Russian oil imports, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying last week that “reducing the global supply of energy” would “raise prices at the gas pump for the American people.” However, the administration faced pressure from both parties in Congress over an import ban, according to reports from Fox News and Bloomberg.
Republicans and some Democrats, such as Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), have called to increase domestic oil production to offset the losses from a ban on Russian imports. Republicans in particular have castigated the Biden administration over policies including opposition to new oil production leases on federal lands and the cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have expanded imports from Canada.
“It’s simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production,” Biden said during the Tuesday morning announcement. Biden said just 10 percent of oil drilling in the U.S. occurs on federal land, and that there are at least 9,000 “permits to drill now” that oil companies aren’t using.
However, oil companies can face regulatory requirements such as safety and environmental inspections that significantly delay the start of drilling, a fact check by The National Desk noted. Companies are also facing a labor shortage and supply-chain issues, CNN has reported.