As President Joe Biden returns from a busy week in Europe, he comes back to a country reeling from inflation and high gas prices.
Those issues are unlikely to go away in the next weeks as he prepares for his next overseas trip, meeting with Middle East leaders. Biden is scheduled to have bilateral meetings with Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman in July.
On Thursday, as Biden wrapped up a week of meetings with G7 and NATO leaders, he said he does not plan to discuss oil in his meeting with Saudi leaders. Saudi Arabia is the second-largest oil producer in the world, behind the U.S.
“No, I'm not going to ask -- all the Gulf states are meeting,” Biden said. “I've 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 in their own interest, concluding that makes sense to do.”
Meanwhile, Biden renewed his push to get Congress to drop the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax. He also wants states to drop gas taxes for three months. Biden claimed that temporarily dropping the gas tax would cause a $1 decrease in gas prices, but in reality, states charge a tax of 31 cents a gallon on regular gas on average. Eliminating state and federal gas taxes would only reduce gas prices by about 50 cents.
“I think there's a lot of things that we can do, and we will do, but the bottom line, ultimately, the reason why gas prices are up is because of Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said. “ The reason why the food crisis exists is because of Russia. Russia is not allowing grain to get out of Ukraine. So, that's the way in which I think we should move and I think it would have a positive impact on the price at the pump as well.”
But if Russia is a culprit for high gas prices, the United States and the rest of the West could be in for a prolonged period of elevated gas costs. Biden said Thursday that the United States would continue supporting Ukraine for “as long as it takes.”
Although gas prices are high in the United States, many NATO nations are experiencing even higher costs. Even more concerning, many Eastern European countries are concerned about energy shortages due to the war.
“The war in Ukraine shows the danger of being too dependent on commodities from authoritarian regimes. The way Russia is using energy as a weapon of coercion highlights the need to quickly wean off Russian oil and gas,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general.
The United States has stopped purchasing Russian energy. European nations have tried to limit gas and oil from Russia, but those nations are largely more dependent on the nation’s energy. NATO leaders say Russia can sell its energy to help fund its war against Ukraine.
"Of course, I recognize that our economic sanctions, for instance on parts of [the] Russian industry, on the financial sector, also have global ramifications, also for the energy markets, and therefore Europeans, NATO allies, the United States.. they pay a price. There's no way to deny that,” Stoltenberg said.