Biden administration sounds alarm on rising energy prices

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration is raising alarms at home and abroad about rising energy prices slowing the nation’s recovery from the pandemic-induced recession.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday called on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to move faster to restore global supply of petroleum to pre-pandemic levels, as 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 Wednesday come as the Biden 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, both in public and in private, to more swiftly undo the production cuts put in place at the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, National Economic Council director Brian Deese asked FTC Chair 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.” The FTC is an independent agency and may take advice, but not direction, from the White House.

Analysts are expecting the latest U.S. headline inflation rate, due Wednesday, to grow at an annualized rate of 5.3%. This is slightly lower than June’s 5.4% which was the highest in more than a decade.

Gas prices are up about a $1.00 from than a year ago, as Americans hit peak summer driving season and return to roads after pandemic shut-ins.

Rising prices, both 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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