One of the surest signs of inflation is the pain Americans are feeling at the pump.
According to motoring and leisure travel membership giant AAA, the average price of regular gas in the U.S. now sits at $4.752 per gallon — roughly 51% higher than the $3.137 per gallon drivers were paying a year ago.
President Joe Biden has been calling companies running gas stations to lower their prices.
“Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now,” he said in a tweet over the long weekend.
To combat rising energy prices, the Biden administration is releasing about one million barrels a day from its Strategic Petroleum Reserves through October. The flow has depleted the reserves to their lowest level since 1986.
But according to a recent Reuters report, the U.S. sent more than five million barrels of oil from its SPR to Europe and Asia last month.
Reuters reported that Phillips 66 shipped around 470,000 barrels of crude oil from a storage site in Texas to Italy. Meanwhile, Atlantic Trading & Marketing, part of TotalEnergies, exported two cargoes of 560,000 barrels.
President Joe Biden’s attempt to lower rising oil prices by convincing Saudi Arabia to increase production looks set to fail as Saudi officials have indicated the country is not willing to abandon its oil production alliance with Russia, which Washington has claimed is part of the reason for sky-high fuel costs.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, U.S. officials said Biden will discuss Saudi Arabia’s human rights record during the trip. The paper reported that Saudi officials are not likely to make any human rights concessions nor will they be willing to abandon an oil-production partnership with Russia.
Biden will begin his Middle East trip this week in his first trip to the region since taking office, starting in Israel and the occupied West Bank. He will end his trip in Saudi Arabia. Biden has said that the trip will advance American interests by focusing on the global trade and supply chains the U.S. relies on.
Many countries in the West, including the U.S., want Saudi Arabia to produce more oil to help mitigate the growing global energy crisis that was ignited by the Ukraine war. More production will also punish Russia, a major oil exporter, by bringing global prices down.
Biden wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published over the weekend that Saudi Arabia’s “energy resources are vital for mitigating the impact on global supplies of Russia’s war in Ukraine.” The president is slated to visit the country as part of his July 13 to 16 trip to the region, which will include an appearance at a Gulf Cooperation Council summit and a stop in Israel.
Saudi Arabia has been looking to secure an oil alliance with Russia for decades but has to walk a tightrope to do this while improving strained relations with the U.S. over its human rights record.
Washington and Riyadh have expressed different ideas about what the priorities will be during Biden’s visit. The Biden administration said that the summit of the Arab nations will take center stage, as the president will meet multiple heads of state from the region during the summit.
However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi officials said the meeting between Biden and Saudi King Salman and his leadership team, which includes his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will feature “substantial exchanges between Prince Mohammed and the president on a range of topics and [Saudi officials] have described the summit as peripheral.”
The crown prince is considered a pariah by many in Washington after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in February 2021 that the 36-year-old future king approved the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden and bin Salman have had frosty relations, with Biden refusing to speak with the crown prince last year and bin Salman also refusing to speak with the president on a call in a lead up to the Ukraine war in February. Biden’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia has stirred controversy, as some feel the president is abandoning his policy of making Saudi Arabia “a pariah” for the murder of Khashoggi.
On June 30, Biden said he would not directly press Saudi Arabia to increase oil output to curb soaring crude prices.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been ratcheting up the economic pressure on the West in recent weeks, particularly in Europe, where the energy crisis is particularly acute due to overreliance on Russian energy.
Last week, a Russian court ordered the suspension of a key Kazakh oil pipeline that takes crude to Europe via a Black Sea port.
However, Biden recently stated that he would not ask Saudi Arabia to increase oil production during the trip.
“Well, first of all, that’s not the purpose of the trip,” Biden said on June 30 whether he would ask Saudi leaders to boost oil production during the trip. “The Israelis believe it is really important that I make the trip.”
After he was pressed and asked a second time, the president answered, “no.”
“That’s the all the Gulf states meeting,” Biden continued, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council conference. “I indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production, generically, not to the Saudis particularly. And I think we’re going to — I hope we see them and their own interests concluding that makes sense to do.”
“The bottom line is, ultimately, the reason why gas prices are up is because of Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said. “The reason why the food crisis exists is because of Russia, Russia, not allowing grain to get out of Ukraine.”
Biden’s comments appeared to also contradict remarks from a senior administration official during a June 13 background briefing about the upcoming trip.