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President Biden and congressional Democrats who have championed green energy policies while calling to shift away from domestic oil drilling are facing an uphill battle ahead of the midterm elections, as gas prices continue to climb from near-record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
During his State of the Union address last week, Biden announced that the U.S. is releasing 30 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve to protect consumers from the rising prices during the Russia-Ukraine war, but prices have kept rising. The national average has crested over $4 and set an all-time record on Monday.
Republicans argue that Biden has given Putin leverage by continuing Russian oil purchases while canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and freezing new oil and gas leases on federal lands. They accuse him of funding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine by refusing to sanction Russia’s oil and gas sector.
Some Democrats have blamed the rising prices on gouging and monopolies. Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have blamed the hikes on the “greed” of fossil fuel industries.
“The bottom line is this: The real problem with increased gas prices is gouging and monopolies,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday. “You’re going to hear a lot more from us on those issues in the near, near future.”
Others, like Democratic senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Mark Kelly of Arizona, who are facing tough reelection races in their states, have called for temporarily eliminating the federal gas tax. They introduced a bill last month that would scrap the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax through the rest of 2022.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she’s “all for” banning Russian oil imports, and she signaled support for the proposed gas tax holiday, but she is “not for drilling on public lands.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., ripped the Democrats pushing the gas tax holiday as “looking for political cover” ahead of the midterms.
“I will note that people promoting this tend to be Democrats who are up for reelection, looking for a way to offset the fact that they have been opposing development of America’s traditional fuels,” he told Fox News Digital. “Instead, now that we’ve got a spike in prices, they’re looking for political cover, if you will. Another excuse not to do what is politically inconvenient.”
Cassidy said it’s “hard to keep a straight face” when Biden says he’ll do everything in his power to lower gas prices.
“I once read that the party in power always loses when gas prices are above a certain threshold. They are currently above that threshold,” Cassidy said.
“Historically, inflation works against the party in control of Washington,” Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Fox News Digital.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., who also sits on the committee, touted the American Energy Independence from Russia Act, which “would require the president to unleash America’s oil and natural gas production to offset Russian imports,” he told Fox News Digital.
“We have seen a 50% increase in energy prices since President Biden took office, and the Russian war in Ukraine will only cause these prices to climb,” Bilirakis said. “Instead of flipping the switch and saying yes to American energy, the President is inexplicably doubling down on failed strategies. We need to readjust our entire thinking with the understanding that energy security is national security.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who also sits on the committee, agreed.
“President Biden should immediately reverse his devastating policies that are causing gas prices to skyrocket and are giving Putin leverage against the rest of the world and return to the policies that were working under President Trump to create American energy dominance with gas prices below $2 a gallon,” Scalise said. “Speaker Pelosi and President Biden’s radical Green New Deal agenda will be a major issue in November’s elections.”
“One year of Democrat rule has destroyed American energy independence and driven up gas prices on every family,” House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York told Fox News Digital in an email. “In my district, families are paying over a dollar more for a gallon of gas than last year”
“In San Francisco, the price at the pump has reached over $5 per gallon, marking the most expensive average ever for a U.S. city,” Stefanik continued. “Make no mistake, American families will not forget Joe Biden destroyed American energy independence and caused prices at the pump to skyrocket.”
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, issued a memo to Republicans Thursday saying Biden’s and the Democratic Party’s “assault” on America’s oil producers has led to a dependence on Russian oil that is helping fund the invasion of Ukraine.
“U.S. purchases, coupled with soaring prices caused by a decrease in the oil supply earned Russia’s gas sector record profits last year,” Banks wrote. “That cash helped insulate Russia from sanctions and shifted Putin’s calculus towards a full-scale invasion.”
Banks’ memo listed several measures Biden could take to boost domestic oil production, including prohibiting the import of Russian oil and gas, ending the pause on new oil and gas leases and permits on U.S. federal lands, and fast-tracking pending liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits.
“More than 99% of cars in the U.S. run on gas or diesel,” Banks told Fox News Digital. “I have no doubt gas prices will be one of the biggest issues of the midterm elections. The fact that Joe Biden doubled down on his Green New Deal agenda during his speech on Tuesday goes to show how disassociated Democrats have become from working-class Americans.”
A ban on Russian oil imports has bipartisan support, and Biden has repeatedly said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to his handling of Russia.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have introduced legislation that would block the U.S. government and U.S. companies from importing any Russian crude oil or petroleum.
Both senators have called for increased domestic production of oil.
Fox News’ Houston Keene contributed to this report.