Politics

Harris Pushes For Green Energy As Americans Face Record Gas Prices

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Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday pushed a transition to green energy and electric cars as Americans face record high prices at the pump.

As gas costs soar and more workers are returning to the office as covid numbers fall, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a $3.7 billion boost for public transportation, including an investment in new fleets of electric buses.

‘We are all in the midst of a turning point. We have the technologies to transition to a zero emission fleet,’ Harris said during the announcement. ‘We can address the climate crisis and grow our economy at the same time.’

Buttigieg also stressed how the money would help the environment.

‘Transit gets riders where they need to be efficiently and affordably with far less pollution to thrive. And it’s even good for drivers of cars, because it means less congestion and traffic on our roads. And transit is even better when it’s clean transit with modern electric buses that don’t pollute at all,’ he said.

Neither official mentioned gas prices: AAA reported Sunday that the national average for a gallon of gas hit $4.009 — the highest since 2008. On Monday, the average price hit $4.10 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.

Also a factor is cost: The average transaction price for an electric vehicle (EV) is $56,437, according to Kelley Blue Book, which is about $10,000 higher than the overall industry average for a vehicle.

Republicans were quick to criticize with one lawmaker from the oil-rich state of Oklahoma calling Harris and Buttigieg ‘tone deaf.’

‘Vice President Kamala Harris and DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg spent the afternoon promoting electric vehicles and Green New Deal policies. Are you kidding me? The Biden Administration could not be more tone deaf,’ said Rep. Markwayne Mullin.

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Biden is doing ‘everything he can to reduce the impact’ of gas prices on the American people.

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She blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the high numbers at the pump.

‘What is also true, is that because of the actions of President Putin, because he invaded a sovereign country that created instability in the markets, that is something the President talked about even before Russia and President Putin move forward with their actions,’ she noted.

Psaki also snapped at Fox News’ Peter Doocy when he asked her why the federal government wasn’t doing more to bring down prices and asked why the administration was blaming Putin.

‘Federal policies are not in limiting the supplies of oil and gas,’ she said.

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‘Let me give you the facts here and I know that can be inconvenient, but I think they’re important in this moment,’ Psaki said to Doocy as he tried to ask a followup question.

‘In the short term, supply must keep up with the demand,’ she said. ‘We will make the shift to a secure, clear, clean energy future. We are one of the largest producers with a strong domestic oil and gas industry. We have actually produced more oil – it is at record numbers and we will continue to produce more oil.

‘There are 9000 approved drilling permits that are not being used. So the suggestion that we are not let allowing companies to drill is inaccurate. The suggestion that that is what is hindering or preventing gas prices to come down is inaccurate.’

She argued the administration has released oil from the strategic reserve, that there are 9,000 approved drilling permits not being used, and is in talks with oil companies.

‘I would suggest to ask the oil companies why they’re not using those if there’s a desire to drill more,’ Psaki said.

Prices at the pump were rising long before Russia invaded Ukraine and have spiraled faster since the start of the war.

Biden faces pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to ban Russian oil as a sign of U. S. support for Ukraine. But there are fears that could send prices at the pump even higher. The vice president is headed to Poland and Romania this week to show support to NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The U. S. national average for a gallon of gasoline has soared 45 cents a gallon in the past week and topped $4.06 on Monday, according to auto club AAA.

The price of regular broke $4 a gallon on Sunday for the first time in nearly 14 years and is now up nearly 50% from a year ago.

The price for gasoline in Europe is even higher, averaging 1.75 euros per liter last week, according to the European Commission, the equivalent of $7.21 per gallon.

GasBuddy, which tracks prices down to the service-station level, said Monday that the U. S. was likely to break its record price of $4.10 a gallon, but that does not account for inflation. In today’s terms, the record price would be equal to about $5.24 after accounting for inflation.

Oil prices soared early Monday before retreating. In midday trading, benchmark U. S. crude was up 2% to about $118 a barrel, and the international price gained 4% to around $123 a barrel. Major U.S. stock indexes were down about 2%.

The United States is the world’s largest oil producer – ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia – but it is also the biggest oil consumer, and it can’t meet that staggering demand with domestic crude alone.

The U. S. imported 245 million barrels of oil from Russia last year – about 8% of all U.S. oil imports – up from 198 million barrels in 2020. That’s less than the U.S. gets from Canada or Mexico but more than it imported last year from Saudi Arabia.

The increasingly violent Russian attack on Ukraine has increased calls to cut off Russia from the money it gets from oil and natural gas exports. Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas.

President Joe Biden has been reluctant to ban Russian oil, fearing it could further fuel inflation heading into the midterm elections this November.

But, on Monday, officials did announce the administration was awarding $2.2 billion in covid relief money from the American Rescue Plan to 35 transit agencies in 18 states. Public transportation took a big financial hit during the pandemic when ridership dropped due to telework.

The money will be used to prop up day-to-day operations, including staffing and payroll as well as cleaning and sanitization to limit the spread of illness.

Another $1.5 billion in grants will be made available under the bipartisan infrastructure law – a total of $7.5 billion over five years – for transit agencies to purchase low- or no-emission buses and build bus facilities. That´s more than double the combined amount from the previous year.

Several transit systems have already been moving in the direction of electric buses. California has committed to all-electric bus fleets by 2040, as well as New York City and Boston. Washington, D. C., has set a target of 2045. Transportation is the biggest U.S. contributor to global warming.

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