The White House is watching rising gas prices “very carefully,” as President Joe Biden’s top advisers are briefing him regularly on the situation, a senior administration official told CNN.
At present, top advisers to Biden believe the situation is steady, the official said, considering it’s the height of air conditioning and driving season and given the strength of the economy, which drives up demand for travel and energy usage.
“The irony is the strength of the economy brings higher prices,” the official told CNN. “The better the president (and his agenda) performs, the higher the price is going to go.”
The average price of retail gasoline nationally rose two cents per gallon Friday to $3.73, according to AAA, after seeing the biggest one-day spike since June 2022 earlier in the week. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline climbed to $3.69 on Wednesday, according to AAA, up by 5 cents from Tuesday. That jump came just a day after a 4-cent increase, previously the biggest one-day increase in a year. All told, gas prices have spiked 15 cents in a week.
Analysts blame a combination of mounting supply cuts by OPEC and Russia, extreme heat that has sidelined oil refineries and optimism about the health of the world economy.
Gas prices are still well below where they were last summer – the national average was 54 cents higher a year ago, according to AAA.
If prices rise to a level where the president deems a policy response necessary, the administration may choose to stop buying oil from the open market to refill the country’s emergency reserves or seek higher output from the largest global oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia.
It remains unclear what price level would trigger such a response.
Within the West Wing, the monthslong reprieve in gas prices has taken the issue off the front-burner for officials, but it’s now rising in priority.
During the run-up to peak gas prices around $5 per gallon in June 2022, chief of staff Ron Klain refreshed gas prices multiple times per day, and frequently relayed those prices to the public and the president, whose approval rating was seen as directly linked to the price per gallon.
Klain’s successor, Jeff Zients, has been holding regular meetings on the topic but has not obsessed over prices in the same way. Top policy aides like Amos Hochstein – who recently transitioned to the White House from the State Department to advise the president on energy, relations with the Middle East and global infrastructure – have also taken a lead role in crafting the administration’s policy response.