Environmental Activists Split on Biden Administration Response to Soaring Gas Prices

Last updated on July 18th, 2023 at 01:50 pm

The combination of soaring gas prices and torrid inflation, unless turned around quickly, provides for an efficient start-up of the wave machine in the November election pool. Incumbent parties generally lose anyway, and without regard to the fact that both issues are global and rooted in disease and war, without some significant action to turn things around, Democrats could lose 40-75 seats in the House and lose the Senate despite a favorable map, the type of loss from which it could take three elections to recover. It looks grim, but there is still time.

To that end, President Biden – whose approval ratings are around 40% – is doing almost all he can to both lower gas prices and the price of goods, even when he knows that his actions will have little to no ultimate impact. It is critical that he be “seen” and that the public knows he’s aware of the pain and cares.

And yet the Democratic left, particularly the environmental base, is split on Biden’s plan. According to this morning’s Politico Playbook, some want Biden to do all he can to flood the market with gas, drastically lowering prices (despite the fact that he has very little power to do so and is already doing the little he can), and some want Biden to take advantage of the moment to emphasize weaning off fossil fuels, bear the costs, and fund the programs. With respect to dedication to progressive ideals, neither side is wrong. With respect to political reality, it would seem that one side is very wrong. There is no doubt that both sides and the White House also seem to be ignoring an important retort to the GOP’s wailing.

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The political side is clearly winning out with respect to President Biden. Our quotes come from the Playbook:

“I’m not going to wait to take action to help American families,”Biden said. “I’m doing everything within my power by executive orders to bring down the price and address the Putin price hike.”

It was an obvious reminder that the administration is eager to show the public that it’s taking action to reduce gas prices — whether that’s with this emergency waiver on E15, pushing for oil companies to increase production, or releasing 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The decision has been made. Yet Democrats focused on the environmental consequences are convinced it is the wrong move from both a political and environmental perspective:

One activist familiar with the White House’s thinking put it to Playbook like this: “[The White House has] a really compelling case to make [for renewables] right now. … [But] they’ve continued to do what they’ve been trying to do since the beginning of this administration — which is to have it both ways.” This is the moment, they say, to consistently lay out that the current situation is exactlywhy the U.S. needs to wean itself off of fossil fuels.

This is an extremely easy case to make when one isn’t missing prescriptions because one’s job involves a lot of traveling, and gas prices are making it hard to simply make it day to day. This is the political reality that many easily recognize, even many environmentalists:

“It would be a horrible mistake for the president to do anything but acknowledge the day-to-day angst on fuel costs,” DAVID KIEVE,president of the Environmental Defense Fund Action and a former administration official told Josh, Kelsey and Zack. “Poll after poll shows the No. 1 concern of the American people is cost to families.” (Worth noting: Kieve is married to Biden White House comms director KATE BEDINGFIELD.)

For its part, the White House is confident that it can “walk and chew gum at the same time,” with a spokesperson emphasizing that they can do all they can to get gas to families that absolutely need it now while increasing their commitment to renewables.

But it seems plainly obvious that the White House is missing out on a unique opportunity to put the entire problem in the Republicans’ lap. President Biden and the Democrats wanted to continue the monthly child tax credits that gave parent(s) $250-$300 per child. That extra $800 for three kids (as an example) would go a long way to stave off the pain of rising gas prices and inflation. But Republicans blocked the program, causing it to effectively end in January.

Yes, the White House should be seen doing all it can to fight the root causes of the rising prices hurting the American public. But as both a political advantage and real help for families, it would seem that Joe Biden should address the American people from the Oval Office, emphasize how much he cares, declare some kind of financial emergency, and re-submit the bill to make the child tax credit a reality again. Let the Republicans explain why they’re opposed.





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