During Wednesday’s White House press conference, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to explain why it took months for President Joe Biden to suggest a temporary federal gas tax break to help Americans at the gas pump.
The press conference came just an hour after Biden spoke, urging Congress to pass a three month federal gas tax break as Americans prepare to travel this summer, and as gases continue to hold out at record high prices.
"This topic of a tax break has been out there for weeks and months. And you're just talking now about starting conversation. Why is it just starting now?" one reporter asked.
Jean-Pierre responded that Biden wanted to "make sure he looked at the data" and "spoke to his economic team" before taking action.
"But I do want to take take a step back. if we look at the last several months, if we look at what has happened during — during the time that Putin amassed his forces along the border of Ukraine, we have seen gas prices rise by $2 per gallon. That is just the facts," she said.
While gas prices have sharply risen since the February invasion of Ukraine, gas prices in the US had been creeping up for months before that.
"That is what we have seen, and the President has taken historic action. So yes, it's been a couple of it's been a couple of months, but he has taken action. He has not just been sitting around waiting to make a decision on this," Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre said that Biden has released 1 million barrels of oil from the strategic oil reserves per day.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US goes through an average of 19.78 million barrels of oil per day.
She also noted the action Biden has taken on Ethanol 15 fuel, where earlier this year he announced that the fuel would be sold from June to September, months where the sales of this fuel is usually banned, according to NPR.
"Hopefully that have — has an impact on that as well. And the 240 million barrels of oil that he rallied his partners across the globe to do. Ao those are actions that he's taken. And so this is just another solution. I want to make sure that we're not looking at gas tax as the only solution, it is one of an array of actions that the President is doing."
The reporter pressed Jean-Pierre once again, questioning why the gas tax suspension was proposed now.
"I fully understand that, but again, why is it just happening now? And secondly, what was the threshold for him where he said, 'I want I want to push for this now?'"
Jean-Pierre started by repeating some of her previous statements, continuing by saying, "the thing about this is, he took actions, as I mentioned, and when — with the gas tax, holiday gas tax, the way that he sees it is a direct, straightforward way to deal with — to deal with something that the American public is really not feeling relief right now at the pump."
"And we're also in the season, we’re in the summer season, as well, where a lot of people are traveling. And so these next three months are critical for many families, American families. So the timing is also makes sense as well when you think about where we are with — with families traveling the next three months during the summer time," she continued.
In another question, a reporter questioned whether the administration has a working theory as to why oil companies have not already increased their refining capacities.
"You know, I — there is no working theory on our part," she said.
"What I can say is, let me just just lay out some facts here," Jean-Pierre said as she shuffled through her notes.
"So, as of this morning, crude oil prices have dropped by nearly 15 percent from two weeks ago about prices at the pump have — had barely — but prices at the pump have barely budged. The last time the price of crude oil was $110 a barrel, the price of gas was $4.60 a gallon. Today, it's about 35 cents higher.
Jean-Pierre explained that the difference is "a result of companies record high profit margins for refining, refining oil," and that their profit margins have tripled this year.
"So they would have to speak to that themselves as to why they are not bringing up their capacity because again, the crude oil is there," said Jean-Pierre. "We need them to refine that oil so that we could bring up the capacity, and so therefore, the gas prices could come down."
"That's what we're asking them to do. The conversation will happen tomorrow with Secretary Granholm, there will be White House officials as well in the room with her until they'll have that conversation and hopefully we can get to some solutions and some ideas," she concluded.
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