Politics

White House taking wait-and-see approach to rising gas prices, officials say

Senior White House aides huddled multiple times this week to discuss policy options to keep a lid on gasoline prices, officials told CNN, as prices continued rising steadily in recent weeks amid strong economic demand, refinery issues, extreme weather, and geopolitical tensions.

In the meetings – which included national security adviser Jake Sullivan, National Economic Council director Lael Brainard, White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, and senior advisor Amos Hochstein – officials discussed a menu of domestic and international policy options but have not decided to take action in the near-term.

The administration plans to monitor prices closely to see whether they come down naturally with the peak season for travel and air conditioning usage, conventionally viewed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, receding into the rearview, officials told CNN.

Despite falling steadily since peaking in June 2022, gasoline prices soared 10.6% in August, comprising most if not all of a recent spike in inflation that has strained the wallets of consumers – and voters.

The Biden administration has been monitoring the rise in prices throughout the summer, with officials acknowledging they’ve begun regularly checking online price charts for the first time since they came down from their peak.

“One of the first things I do every morning is click on the AAA gas price,” Jared Bernstein, the White House’s chief economist, told reporters this week. “There is some pressure relief coming in September.”

Global pressures on supply are set to continue, with Saudi Arabia extending production cuts that were supposed to end in October through the end of the year. The US Energy Information Administration is now forecasting oil prices will rise in the fourth quarter and not return to August 2023 averages until the second half of next year.

“The Energy Department is in touch with producers and refiners to resolve any issues and to try to ensure stable supply,” Bernstein said.

President Joe Biden, speaking Thursday in Maryland on his economic plan, acknowledged that energy prices remain a persistent problem for consumers.

“We have a lot more to do,” Biden told the audience, to applause, at Prince George’s County Community College. “And I’m going to get those gas prices down again. I promise you.”

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