GOP says Biden intentionally boosts gas prices to aid his climate agenda

With gas prices having more than doubled under President Biden, congressional Republicans increasingly are accusing the president of scheming for exactly that to happen, the better to pursue his clean-energy climate agenda.

Rep. Tom Rice, South Carolina Republican, told Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a House hearing Wednesday that $5 gasoline appears to be the deliberate result of Mr. Biden’s energy policies.

“Is the Biden administration intentionally driving up energy prices?” the lawmaker asked. “It seems to me that it is irrefutable.”

Ms. Yellen replied, “Of course not. It is an enormous burden on American households.”

“I agree,” Mr. Rice responded. “It seems like it’s an intentional effort on the Biden administration.”

The Treasury secretary noted that the president has authorized the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve in an effort to lower prices.

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Mr. Rice cut her off, calling it “a drop in the bucket” and “a showpiece, and you know it.”

“They want Americans to pay more for gas to ease ‘the great transition,’” he said, alluding to Mr. Biden’s claim last month that high gas prices were aiding “an incredible transition” away from fossil fuels that will make America stronger.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, also accused the president this week of driving up the cost of petroleum intentionally, noting that Mr. Biden had pledged during his presidential campaign to “end fossil fuels.”

“President Biden is delivering the holy war on American domestic energy that he promised on the campaign trail,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “Meanwhile, energy costs and gas prices for American families have absolutely skyrocketed. Gas prices have literally doubled since this administration took office.”

Ms. Yellen repeated the administration’s argument that reduced domestic energy production is largely the result of lower demand during the pandemic and a refusal by oil companies to drill.

“There are 9,000 permits issued that the oil and gas sector can take advantage of, and 20 million acres of public lands under lease right now that are not being produced on,” she told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

“I think American producers saw low prices after the pandemic, lost money and cut their drilling activity, oil supplies declined, and the high prices that prevail right now are a huge incentive,” she said.

Mr. Rice, who faces a tough GOP primary election next week, noted that the president withdrew the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office.

Since then, he said, the administration has “slow-walked” permits for various oil production projects in the U.S.

“Three weeks ago, as gas hit $4 a gallon in South Carolina, he announced that he was withdrawing permits for … leasing for drilling in Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico, apparently trying to drive gasoline above $4 a gallon,” Mr. Rice told Ms. Yellen. “And it was effective. And then two weeks ago in Japan, he said, ‘Well, there’s an upside to high fuel prices because it’ll ease the great transition.’”

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee had criticized Ms. Yellen at a separate hearing earlier in the week over high energy prices, and she responded by saying the solution over the next several years is for more Americans to shift to solar and wind power.

Rep. Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania Republican, told Ms. Yellen on Wednesday that this is unrealistic.

Many residents in his largely rural district rely on propane to heat their homes, he pointed out, and the cost has risen about 50% this year.

“This is a freaking disaster,” Mr. Kelly said. “I don’t understand how the smartest people in the world sitting in this administration can tell us everything’s OK.”

Ms. Yellen again blamed Russia’s war on Ukraine for causing fuel prices to rise. But Mr. Rice said the cost of gas was $2.40 per gallon when Mr. Biden was inaugurated, and had risen to $3.60 by last Feb. 22, before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The average cost of gasoline in the U.S. hit $4.95 on Wednesday, another record, up four cents from a day earlier.

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