U.S. Rising Gas Prices: For Once, Biden Doesn’t Deserve the Blame


Gas prices are reaching all-time highs nationwide, with some drivers cashing out five dollars per gallon. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Emma Lipkind, Opinion Editor

Gas prices are reaching all-time highs nationwide, with some drivers cashing out five dollars per gallon. Citizens in many states are struggling to afford their weekly trips to the gas station. In typical American fashion, this leaves people yearning for someone to whom they can file their complaints. The president is an all too obvious choice. Due to misinformation and the lack of education surrounding the oil and gas industries, presidents can take huge hits to their reputation for something that is not totally within their control. U.S. presidents of past and present have deserved many attacks over the span of their careers, but they cannot be the sole party facing blame for climbing gas prices.

There are huge misconceptions about gas prices in America. Of course, it would be convenient for the president to simply dictate how much we should pay for gas, since drivers would have a clear perpetrator to blame. However, there are many factors which contribute to gas stations increasing their prices, and President Joe Biden is not a lead contender. 

Oil and gasoline prices are linked, and both are experiencing increases. “[The] price of crude oil, which typically accounts for 50 to 60% of the price at the pump, closed above $80 per barrel this week for the first time since 2014 — and that is twice what it was at this time last year,” according to the Associated Press. Therefore, a top contender in determining the cost of gas prices is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Some of the countries comprising this entity are those we might traditionally link to petroleum production, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. OPEC and its allies, OPEC+, attempt to “regulate the supply of oil in order to set the price on the world market.” The group is made up of 15 members, one from each nation, yet is a huge contributor to the reason gas prices are abnormally high. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on many sectors of the global economy, oil and gas being among them. The sudden increase in demand for oil and gas has created issues in the supply sector after the decrease during peak pandemic months. The current shift in demand is not being met because of OPEC’s decision to increase oil production at a relatively slow rate. 

The U.S. has requested for OPEC to increase the production of oil to meet the current demand, but they appear committed to a gradual approach. 

There are some options the president has for improving this situation, but as CNN wrote, it’s like “bringing a squirt gun to a fight.” The potential mitigation factors Biden can implement are no match for OPEC’s power and the economic circumstances the entire world is facing due to the pandemic.

Additionally, Biden is struggling to utilize any tools he has as president because of the ongoing climate crisis. At the moment, Biden is one of many global leaders working to decrease dependence on fossil fuels. If OPEC increases oil production, this could negate some world leaders’ effects to wean off of these harmful energy sources. Although it is possible for the U.S. to utilize oil and gas while remaining eco-friendly, these are ambitious goals that require a huge decrease in our oil and gas imports. America is on its way there, being “the world’s leading producer of both oil and natural gas,” but like most things, it cannot happen overnight.

Another option would be for Biden to pressure OPEC regardless of potential consequences. However, it is unlikely that they will accept his request.

No president has the power to wave his hand and increase gasoline production to meet global demand. The key to accepting this is knowing that these industries are global, and since most countries around the world are experiencing the pandemic differently, oil and gas prices are difficult to regulate. If the U.S. could domestically produce all of the oil and gas required for the nation, perhaps we would be in a different situation. In-house regulation of these industries could provide the country with more say in pricing, but we’re just not there yet. 

The president is the leader and face of our nation, but he is also just one individual. Gas price increases stem from the political and economic climate of the world, and although the U.S. has an undoubtedly large role in that dynamic, it does not have total control. If you really want oil and gas prices to decrease soon, one obstacle to overcome is OPEC. However, their decision for slow oil production is not in vain, since the wrong move could easily cause long-term instability and inflation in the market. Essentially, we’re at a stand still. Not even President Biden can save us this time.

There is nothing wrong with criticizing a president’s decisions, but when their decisions are not what’s causing problems, it’s pointless. The continous complaints aimed at Biden’s alleged mishandling of gas price increases are counterproductive. Perhaps putting pressure on the president about things he actually has power over, like immigration or reproductive rights, could be a better use of one’s energy.

Next time someone you know blames Biden or any other president for the rising gas prices, gently remind them of OPEC, supply and demand and the structure of American and global politics in general. The face of the country is easy to blame — and often, he deserves it — but it’s more of a poorly-masked excuse to expose one’s distaste for the president than anything else.

Emma Lipkind, FCRH ’23, is a French and international political economy major and journalism minor from Holland, Penn.