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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration is moving at home and abroad to try to address concerns about rising energy prices slowing the nation’s recovery from the pandemic-induced recession.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Aug. 11 asked the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to move faster to restore global supply of petroleum to pre-pandemic levels, and the White House asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the domestic gasoline market for any anti-competitive behavior that could be increasing prices.
The joint actions come as the administration is increasingly sensitive to rising prices across the economy as it faces both political and policy pressure from inflation.
“Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery,” Sullivan said in a statement. He said the administration was pressuring OPEC and producers allied with the cartel to more quickly undo the production cuts put in place at the start of the pandemic.
“The production cuts made during the pandemic should be reversed as the global economy recovers in order to lower prices for consumers,” Biden said Aug. 11.
Biden’s National Economic Council director, Brian Deese, asked FTC head Lina Khan to “monitor the U.S. gasoline market and address any illegal conduct that might be contributing to price increases for consumers at the pump.”
FTC is an independent agency and may take advice, but not direction, from the White House.
The Aug. 11 report from the Labor Department showed that consumer prices jumped 0.5% from June to July, down from the previous monthly increase of 0.9%. They have increased a substantial 5.4% compared with a year earlier, erasing much of the benefit to workers from higher pay.
Gas prices are up about $1 from than a year ago as Americans hit peak summer driving season and return to roads after pandemic shut-ins. The White House indicated it is no cause for alarm, saying the country is “not at an historically high gas price moment” and that prices are about where they were in 2018. Still, Biden acknowledged they are high enough to “pinch” working families.
“I want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of oil price declines leading to lower gas prices for consumers,” Biden added.
Rising prices, at the pump and across other consumer goods, have become a potent talking point among Biden’s GOP critics. The White House has insisted that inflation will cool as the economy recovers from the twin shocks of the pandemic and the nation’s ongoing recovery from the virus-induced lockdowns.
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