Joe Biden

Remarks on Efforts To Reduce Gasoline Prices and an Exchange With Reporters

March 31, 2022

The President. Good afternoon. As I said in my State of the Union Address, I'm going to always be honest with the American people. Today I want to talk with you about the costs here at home of Putin's decision to brutally and savagely invade a sovereign nation. Fact is, he's causing thousands of deaths and untold destruction.

Working with our NATO allies and our European partners and beyond that, we're responding. We're aiding the Ukrainian people both economically and militarily while leaving the most punishing economic sanctions against Russia ever used against another nation in place and increasing them.

Thus far, these actions are crippling Russia's economy, isolating Putin from the world, and helping Ukrainians fight for their country and ease their suffering. But as I've said from the start, Putin's war is imposing a cost on America and our allies and democracies around the world.

Today I want to talk about one aspect of Putin's war that affects and has real effects on the American people: Putin's price hike that Americans and our allies are feeling at the pump.

I know how much it hurts. As you've heard me say before, I grew up in a family, like many of you, where when the price of a gallon of gasoline went up, it was discussed at the kitchen table. Our family budgets, your family budgets to fill a tank—none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war.

So today I'm laying out a two-part plan not only to ease the pain that families are feeling right now, but to end this era of dependence and uncertainty and to lay a new foundation for true and lasting American energy independence.

Parenthetically, just imagine if in fact Europe didn't have to count on Russian oil, if they were energy independent. It would change the nature of so much.

The problem we're facing with gas prices has two roots. First, the pandemic. When COVID struck, demand for oil plummeted, so production slowed down worldwide. Because of the strength and the speed of our recovery, demand for oil shot back up much faster than the supply. That's why the cost of gas began to rise last year.

The second root is Vladimir Putin. At the start of this year, gas was about $3.30 a gallon. Today, it's about—averaging $4.20, $4.22. It's higher in many States, nearly a dollar more in less than 3 months. And the reason for that is because of Putin's war.

And now many people are no longer buying Russian oil around the world. I banned the Russian import of oil here in America; Republicans and Democrats in Congress called for it and supported it. It was the right thing to do. But I said at the time, it's going to come with a cost. As Russian oil comes off the global market, supply of oil drops and prices are rising.

Now Putin's price strike—price hike is hitting Americans at the pump, which brings me to the first part of my plan: to immediately increase the supply of oil. Our prices are rising because of Putin's actions. There isn't enough supply. And the bottom line is, if we want lower gas prices, we need to have more oil supply right now.

For U.S. oil companies that are recording their largest profits in years, they have a choice. One, they can put those profits to productive use by producing more oils, restarting idle wells, or producing on the sites they already are leasing, giving the American people a break by passing some of the savings on to their customers and lowering the price at the pump. Or they can, as some of them are doing, exploit the situation: sit back, ship those profits to the investors, and—while American families struggle to make ends meet.

Look, this is a moment of consequence and peril for the world and pain at the pump for American families. It's also a moment of patriotism. I want to acknowledge those companies that have already announced they're increasing immediate production. They're investing money to produce more oil and also clean technology we need to reduce our dependence on oil in the future.

They have everything they need. Nothing's standing in their way. And they've indicated they will be producing an extra 1 million barrels of oil per day, probably starting as early as this fall. That's progress.

But some companies have been pretty blunt. They don't want to increase supply because Putin's price hike means higher profits. One CEO even acknowledged that they don't care if the price of a barrel of oil goes to $200 a barrel. They're not going to step up the production.

I say: Enough. Enough of lavishing excessive profits on investors and payouts and buybacks when the American people are watching, the world is watching.

U.S. oil companies made nearly $80 billion in profit last year. And this year, those profits are expected to continue to soar. This is the time—not the time to sit on record profits. It's time to step up for the good of your country and the good of the world; to invest in immediate production that we need to respond to Vladimir Putin; to provide some relief for your customers, not investors and executives.

Look, I'm a capitalist. I have no problem with corporations turning a good profit. But companies have an obligation that goes beyond just their shareholders: to their customers, their communities, and their country.

No American company should take advantage of a pandemic or Vladimir Putin's actions to enrich themselves at the expense of American families. Investing those profits in production and innovation, that's what they should do. Invest in your customers. And it isn't just like—it's not the patriotic duty, it's good for your business as well.

Right now oil and gas industry is sitting on nearly 9,000 unused but approved permits for production on Federal lands. There are more than a million [12 million]* unused acres they have a right to pump on. Families can't afford that companies sit on these—their hands.

So to help execute this first part of my plan, I'm calling for a "use it or lose it" policy. Congress should make companies pay fees on wells on Federal leases they haven't used in years and acres of public land they're hoarding without production.

Companies that are already producing from these wells won't be affected. But those sitting on unused leases and idle wells will either have to start producing or pay the price for their inaction.

Look, the action I'm calling for will make a real difference over time. But the truth is, it takes months, not days, for companies to increase production. That's why the next part of my plan is so important.

Today I'm authorizing the release of 1 million barrels per day for the next 6 months—over 180 million barrels—for the Strategic—from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is a wartime bridge to increase oil supply until production ramps up later this year. And it is by far the largest release of our national reserve in our history. It will provide a historic amount of supply for a historic amount of time: a 6-months bridge to the fall. And we'll use the revenue from selling the oil now to restock the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices are lower so we'll be ready—we'll be ready—for future emergencies.

Folks, I've coordinated this release with allies and partners around the world. Already, I have commit—we have commitments from other countries to release tens of millions of additional barrels into the market. Together, our combined efforts to—will supply well over a million barrels a day, nations coming together to deny Putin the ability to weaponize his energy resources against American families and families and democracies around the world.

Now, for the first part of my plan is about meeting an immediate crisis. The second part is about declaring real American energy independence in the long term so that we never have to deal with this problem again.

Ultimately, we and the whole world need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels altogether. We need to choose long-term security over energy and climate vulnerability. We need to double down on our commitment to clean energy and tackling the climate crisis with our partners and allies around the world.

And we can do that by passing my plan that is literally before the Senate right now—the United States Congress right now. It's been there for well over a month—to speed the transition to a clean energy future that's made in America with American products and American values.

We need to embrace all the tools and technologies that can help us—free us from our dependence on fossil fuels and move us toward a more homegrown clean energy; technologies made by American companies and American workers so we can bolster democratic supply—excuse me—domestic supply chains here at home and export those technologies around the world to reduce greenhouse gases.

That's why today I am issuing a directive to strengthen our clean energy economy. I'm going to use the Defense Production Act to secure American supply chains for the critical materials that go into batteries for electric vehicles and the storage of renewable energy: lithium, graphite, nickel, and so much more.

We need to end our long-term reliance on China and other countries for inputs that will power the future. And I'll use every tool I have to make that happen.

Yes, building a "made in America" clean energy future will help safeguard our national security. Yes, it will help us tackle climate change. Yes, it's going to help us ensure that America's creating millions of good-paying jobs for generations to come.

But most important—the most important thing my plan will do right away is save your family money. And here's what I mean: Under my plan, which is before the Congress now, we can take advantage of the next generation of electric vehicles that a typical driver will save about $80 a month from not having to pay gas at the pump. If your home is powered by safer, cheaper, cleaner electricity, like solar or heat pumps, you can save about $500 a month [year]* on average.

Don't take my word for it. The CEOs of 11 of America's largest utility companies came to see me at the White House several weeks ago. They told me if we pass my plans before the Congress now, typical families will see savings show up in their utility bills immediately. And costs will come down even more as we innovate and develop cutting-edge energy storage technologies, clean hydrogen technology, advanced nuclear technology, carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

And by the way, this weeks, the benefit I included in the bipartisan infrastructure law to help families weatherize their homes are being delivered. My administration is making $3.2 billion available from this legislation to provide up to $6,500 direct payment for working class families to be able to weatherize their homes, to save them money, to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It's a direct grant.

This program has been around for a while, and in the past, it's delivered to families—average families another $327 [$372]* in savings when they weatherize. But now we have the ability to reach 10 times as many families because of the legislation that we already passed in the legislation.

In addition to that, we're also setting new standards to boost fuel economies for new vehicles sold in America. Within 5 years, we're going to travel 10 miles more on every single gallon we have, because the average fuel economy of 49 miles to the gallon is going to be required. That means hundreds of dollars in savings for families at the pump.

We're also setting similar standards for appliances, from your air conditioner to your microwave, your refrigerator, washers, dryers. It's just one of a hundred actions we're taking to save the average family $100 per year in utility bills.

Look, the bottom line is this: Between rapping up—ramping up production in the short term and driving down demand in the long term, we can free ourselves from our dependence on imported oil from across the world.

Look, I know gas prices are painful. I get it. My plan's going to help ease that pain today and safeguard again—against tomorrow. I'm open to ideas to strengthen the plan, but I will not be put off and put it on hold.

It's time to deliver true long-term energy independence in America once and for all. And I'm going to continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect you from Putin's price hike. It's not time for politics. America's—Americans can't afford that right now. So let's meet this moment together.

Remember, we're the only nation that has turned every crisis we ever faced into an opportunity. We have a crisis: the price at the pump. So let's show some true strength of this Nation—show our unity, our resolve, our innovative spirit in America—and come out of this, long term, much better off. If we stand up to the bullies of the world, the autocrats, and the dictators, we stand up for who those who are ready to unite—unite with us, the United States of America.

So may God bless you, and may God protect our troops. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, how badly is Vladimir Putin being misinformed by his advisers?

Q. Mr. President, the ruble is back, sir. Mr. President, the ruble is back at the prewar level.

President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia

Q. How badly is Vladimir Putin being misinformed by his advisers?

The President. That's an open question. There's a lot of speculation, but he seems to be—I'm not saying this with a certainty—he seems to be self-isolating. And there's some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers. But I don't want to put too much stock in that at this time because we don't have that much hard evidence.

Q. Mr. President——

Gasoline Prices

Q. Mr. President, how much, in monetary terms, do you estimate today's document will reduce gas prices? And when can Americans expect to see these changes?

The President. That's a really important question, and there's no firm answer to it. But prices already came down when it was announced ahead of time that Biden was going to release so much—and so much energy from—so many barrels of oil from the SPRO. They're already come down.

My guess is, we'll see it come down—continue to come down. But how far down, I don't think anyone can tell.

And there's going to be a slight delay, because if you go out there and you're a gas station and you purchased x amount of gas at a certain price, you're not going to lower the price of the pump until you're able to get back what you invested. And that—I'm talking a matter of, I think, you know, days and weeks. But it's hard to tell.

And the other thing is—exact. But it will come down. And it could come down fairly significantly. It could come down the better part of—you know, anything from 10 cents to 35 cents a gallon. It's unknown at this point.

I'm also waiting to see whether or not our allies—exactly how many barrels they release from their supplies now. My guess is, it could be as high—somewhere between 30 million to 50 million barrels. And the higher the number, the more likely the price is to come down.

Q. Mr. President——

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

[At this point, reporters shouted questions as the President was leaving the room.]

Q. Mr. President, have you seen any sign——

Q. Mr. President, is buying oil—Mr. President, is buying oil from Venezuela out of the table?

President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia/Ukraine

Q. Mr. President, have you seen any signs that Putin is pulling back his forces?

The President. No.

Q. You say he's not pulling back his forces?

Q. The ruble is back at prewar levels, sir? Are the sanctions still working, sir? Are the sanctions still working, sir? The ruble's back.

Q. Wait, wait, hold on.

[The President returned to respond to reporters.]

The President. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I'll answer one question—your question.

Q. Thank you.

The President. The question is: Is he pulling back his forces? Whoever asked that question——

Q. I asked that. Yes.

The President. The question of whether he's pulling back his forces depends on how you read exactly what's going on. Thus far, there is no clear evidence that he's pulling all of his forces out of Kyiv. And there is also evidence that he is beefing up his troops down in the Donbas area.

Depending on your view of Putin—I'm a little skeptical—it's an open question whether he's actually pulling back and going to say, "I'm just going to focus on the Donbas, and I'm not worried about the rest of the country."

I'm a skeptic. I—but I don't have proof that, in fact, he is not going—he is taking a pause, doing all he can to use all the troops he has in the Donbas and continue to keep an eye on and try to move beyond the rest of the country.

Don't know the answer. But it appears, so far, that he has not pulled all of his—the idea he's pulling all the troops out from around Kyiv and moving south, there's no evidence that he's done that.

Thank you.

Q. Does President Zelenskyy think that—[inaudible]—Mr. President?

Q. Are you considering a gas tax holiday? Are you considering a gas tax holiday?

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:48 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Scott D. Sheffield, chief executive officer, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. A reporter referred to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. He also referred to Presidential Determination No. 2022-11 pursuant to section 303 of the Defense Production Act of 1950.

* White House correction.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Efforts To Reduce Gasoline Prices and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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