Gas prices in the United States continue to remain stubbornly high, posing a potential challenge for President Joe Biden as he gears up for the 2024 election, according to analysts. This issue has been a matter of concern despite reduced demand and weaker inflation, and it could impact voter sentiment.
When President Biden assumed office in January 2021, the average gas price across the country stood at $2.4 per gallon, based on historical data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). By December of the same year, these prices had surged to over $3 per gallon. In June 2022, they reached an all-time high, with an average price of $5.06 per gallon, after which they gradually declined but remained above $4 per gallon.
This year, gas prices have stayed below the peak of 2022 but remain elevated compared to the start of Biden’s tenure. In January, the U.S. recorded an average gas price of $3.2 per gallon, which climbed to $3.4 by the end of the month. Throughout the subsequent months, prices remained consistently above $3 per gallon, spiking at nearly $3.8 per gallon in August, according to EIA data.
As of August 30, the average price of regular gasoline was $3.827, just slightly lower than the previous year’s average of $3.844, according to AAA.
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Experts warn that these persistently high gas prices could lead to resentment among voters and potentially impact Biden’s political standing. Thomas Gift, the founding director of the UCL Centre on US Politics in London, U.K., believes that this timing could not be worse for the White House, as it comes just as inflation appeared to be easing. It serves as a stark reminder to Americans of the economic impact of Bidenomics in recent years.
Gas experts Patrick DeHaan and Denton Cinquegrana emphasize that the recent rise in gas prices is largely unrelated to the Biden administration’s policies. Factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, refinery closures or conversions to cleaner energy production, and geopolitical events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have played significant roles in driving these price fluctuations.
The pandemic prompted refinery shutdowns, which led to a limited refinery capacity when demand for gas surged as the country reopened. Additionally, the Biden administration’s focus on transitioning to a greener U.S. economy encouraged many refineries to repurpose or close their infrastructure, further impacting gas prices.
Despite some improvements, gas prices in the U.S. have remained high due to rising crude oil and gasoline prices in the wholesale markets. Unfortunately, the president often receives blame for these price increases, regardless of their actual control over them.
Regarding the future of gas prices, DeHaan predicts that they will follow seasonal trends, decreasing slightly after the summer months due to decreased demand and the switch to cheaper winter gasoline. However, long-term shifts may still occur, depending on factors such as Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and OPEC policies.
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High gas prices are a critical issue for Biden’s potential 2024 campaign, as they significantly impact public sentiment about the economy. They are a visible and relatable concern for many Americans, capable of shaping their overall economic outlook.
While Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to prevent further price increases last year, controlling gas prices remains a complex issue largely beyond the administration’s influence. This could become a talking point for Republicans in the upcoming election, especially given the perceived tension between the Biden administration and the oil industry.
In summary, the persistently high gas prices in the United States pose a challenge for President Biden’s 2024 campaign, even though many factors contributing to these prices are beyond his control. The issue remains central to public sentiment about the economy and could become a significant talking point in the upcoming election.