Gas prices in the U.S. reached a record high Tuesday, and President Joe Biden said he expects them to go even higher after announcing a U.S. ban on all Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports.
“This is a step that we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin, but there will be costs as well here in the United States,” Biden said in an address in the Roosevelt Room Tuesday.
The move had bipartisan backing from figures including former Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but with Republicans already criticizing Biden and Democrats for record gas prices — the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded reached a national average of $4.17, AAA said Tuesday, the highest recorded average price — could soaring costs hurt Democrats in the midterms this fall?
Pence’s political advocacy group Advancing American Freedom is already running ads in close House races linking Russia’s invasion and Democratic energy policies to rising gas prices, and in her response to Biden’s State of the Union address last week, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds blamed high prices on Democratic “anti-energy policies.”
“The president and Democrats in Congress have spent the last year either ignoring the issues facing Americans or making them worse,” Reynolds said.
Biden’s latest sanctions, though, give him cover, a Quinnipiac poll released Monday found. Most Americans are prepared to pay more, with 71% who said they would support a ban on Russian oil even if it meant higher prices in the U.S., compared with 22% who said they would not support a ban.
“Americans are ready to put a chokehold on Russia’s key financial lifeblood, oil, no matter what the consequences are at the pump,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.
The poll, conducted last Friday through Sunday before Biden announced the Russian oil ban, found 54% believed Biden’s sanctions didn’t go far enough, suggesting the new sanctions could have broad support.
In the past, how Americans felt about gas prices and the economy or the president has depended on factors like age and commute times.
A study published last year in American Political Research found those with longer average commutes were more likely to hold the president accountable for increased gas prices, and Gallup research published in 2020 found consumers born before 1965 were more likely to associate high gas prices with a bad economy. The findings gave evidence to researchers’ hypothesis that those who grew up during the national gas shortage in the 1970s would have those associations.
A 2005 Gallup poll found Americans spread the blame around back then for rising gas prices. A year into former President George W. Bush’s second term, economic pessimism was at the highest point of his time in office so far, and rising gas prices were most blamed on major oil companies (36%), the Bush administration (27%), and foreign oil producers (18%).
Biden appeared to preempt Republican attacks during his remarks, calling the expected price surge “Putin’s price hike” and noting companies in the U.S. pumped more oil in his first year in office than former President Donald Trump’s first year in office.
“I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home,” he said.
The U.S. is releasing 60 million barrels of oil from its joint reserves with allies, Biden said, and the country is approaching record levels of oil and gas production, a fact likely to anger some in his own party.
Biden said being energy independent in the future would be a tool against oil-rich authoritarians.
“If we do what we can, it will mean that no one has to worry about the price at the gas pump in the future,” Biden said. “That’ll mean tyrants like Putin won’t be able to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations, and it will make America a world leader in manufacturing and exporting clean energy technologies of the future to countries all around the world.”