(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden has repeatedly pointed to the crisis in Ukraine as the source of the marked increase in gas prices and inflation, but critics point out those prices were soaring well before Russia invaded in late February.
After federal economic data came out late last week showing the highest price increase in four decades, Biden released a statement putting the blame at the feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“At the same time, today’s inflation report is a reminder that Americans‘ budgets are being stretched by price increases and families are starting to feel the impacts of Putin’s price hike,” Biden said. “A large contributor to inflation this month was an increase in gas and energy prices as markets reacted to Putin’s aggressive actions. As I have said from the start, there will be costs at home as we impose crippling sanctions in response to Putin’s unprovoked war, but Americans can know this: the costs we are imposing on Putin and his cronies are far more devastating than the costs we are facing.”
These and other comments have drawn pushback from Republicans and other critics, who point to Biden’s domestic energy policies as well as a major increase in federal debt spending as spurring inflation.
“For months before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden Administration watched as their policies punished our domestic energy production, drastically raising prices across the board,” said Daniel Turner, head of the energy workers advocacy group, Power the Future. “Today they are trying to pin all the blame on Putin, but the American people are not falling for it.”
Polling shows voters are not happy with Biden’s work on the economy. Recently released polling data from ABC/IPSOS found that 58% of voters disapprove of the Biden administration’s handling of the economy. At the same time, 70% of voters disapprove of his handling of inflation and gas prices.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data Tuesday showing yet another marked increase in prices in February.
“Prices for final demand goods jumped 2.4 percent in February, the largest advance since data were first calculated in December 2009,” BLS said. “Two-thirds of the broad-based increase can be traced to an 8.2-percent rise in the index for final demand energy.”
The rise of gas prices, which have hit record heights in recent days, is a major factor for these price increases, according to BLS. AAA puts the national average for gas prices at $4.32 per gallon, a significant increase from the average of $2.87 the same time last year.
“Nearly 40 percent of the February increase in prices for final demand goods can be attributed to the index for gasoline, which rose 14.8 percent,” BLS said. “Prices for diesel fuel, electric power, jet fuel, motor vehicles and equipment, and dairy products also advanced.”
The Biden administration has taken fire for its domestic energy policies, which have hindered pipeline and drilling development. Critics point out energy prices have been increasing for months, long before the conflict in Ukraine.
“Prices are determined by market forces of supply and demand, and the price of crude oil is the primary determinant of the price we pay at the pump,” said Scott Lauermann of the American Petroleum Institute. “Oil prices are at a seven-year high due to a persistent global supply crunch that is being compounded by the war in Ukraine and continued policy uncertainty from Washington. The best way to ensure Americans have access to the affordable and reliable energy they need is to promote policies that incentivize U.S. production and send a clear message that America is open for energy investment.”
Critics also point to the political implications, arguing Biden has appeased the more liberal wing of his party but is now paying the price at the pump.
“Even though the easy, efficient, domestic and even popular solution is found by easing the burden on American energy production, the Biden Administration, so beholden to the radical left, cannot implement it,” Turner said. “At all costs, even at the suffering of the American people, they must continue to punish American energy and promote the inefficient, unreliable ‘green’ alternatives which have proven to be complete failures in European countries who have been implementing green policies for decades.”
Republicans blasted Biden as well for pointing to Russia on price increases.
“So much for President Biden’s excuses for inflation, given that wholesale prices were going up long before Russia invaded Ukraine,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “This is the highest year-over-year increase since we started measuring, and nearly half of the price increases in goods come from the rise in the price of gasoline.”