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White House sounds alarm about rising gasoline prices after oil crosses $80/b

Highlights

Energy price pressure comes during key week for climate policy

US security adviser travels to Middle East for Saudi, UAE meetings

The Biden administration continues to engage with OPEC producers and look "at every means we have to lower gas prices," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sept. 28, a day after crude oil futures settled above $80/b for the first time in three years.

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"I would assure you we're not only engaged with OPEC, we're looking at every means we have to lower gas prices," Psaki said during the White House briefing.

Front-month Brent crude futures Sept. 27 settled above $80/b for the first time since October 2018. Oil futures settled lower Sept. 28, as a downturn in the US equities prompted traders to book profits following an overnight rally.

NYMEX November WTI settled down 16 cents at $75.29/b and ICE November Brent fell 44 cents to settle at $79.09/b.

In August, the White House directed the Federal Trade Commission to monitor the US gasoline market and address "any illegal conduct that might be contributing to price increases," Psaki said. "The FTC responded, committing to take specific actions to identify, deter and investigate," she added.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is in the Middle East for meetings with Saudi and UAE leaders to discuss Yemen and "a range of regional and global challenges," the White House said Sept. 27.

"Obviously, our national security adviser has been deeply engaged, but that's not the focus or the purpose of his trip," Psaki said of oil prices.

Pump pressure

The Biden administration turned to OPEC in July as oil prices were pushing up pump prices during the peak summer driving season. US retail gasoline prices this summer hit their highest level since 2014, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The energy price pressure comes during a key week for the Biden administration to make progress on several key climate initiatives in Congress as part of the federal budget and bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets managing director and global head of commodity strategy, said the Biden administration has a tricky line to walk between its 2030 net-zero emissions target and it requests to OPEC to pump more oil to ease prices.

"They're trying to navigate getting everybody mobilized around this, while at the same time ensuring that consumers have access to affordable energy," Croft said Sept. 27 during an Atlantic Council event.

Pointing to supply disruptions in Europe, Croft said consumers could start to revolt against net-zero agendas if energy access and affordability become major issues.

"I do think it's a really important inflection moment," she said.