California Rep. Bass sounds alarm on state’s high gas prices but says she hopes Biden administration ‘won’t have to intervene’

California Rep. Bass sounds alarm on state’s high gas prices but says she hopes Biden administration ‘won’t have to intervene’
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A Democratic congresswoman from California stressed on Sunday the need to bring down extremely high gas prices in her state, saying that while she would prefer the market sort itself out, she’s open to some federal intervention.

“The median price is $4. And in many places, it’s $5. I know that the oil industry said that one of the reasons for the increase in price was because they had to slow down production because they had to do some maintenance,” Rep. Karen Bass told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “We have got to reduce the price of gas in California.”

Asked by Tapper if she’d support the Biden administration tapping into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to bring down prices, the California Democrat replied: “Well, I’m not sure. I mean, that is certainly one thing that could be done.”

“But I’m kind of more concerned about the oil producers being able to get back online,” she added. “So hopefully we’ll see some reduction and the administration won’t have to intervene.”

CNN reported Friday that California gas prices hit an average price of $4.658 that day, about a penny short of the highest recorded average price of $4.671 for regular gasoline set in October 2012, according to AAA. The prices mean the state’s residents are seeing the highest gas prices in the country, with the national average having dropped slightly to $3.416 on Friday.

Gas prices have been increasing steadily throughout the year as fuel demand grows around the globe and suppliers have been unable — or unwilling — to produce more oil. Although US oil prices have surged by more than 65% this year, US oil production is about 14% below the levels seen at the end of 2019, before the Coronavirus erupted around the country.

In a separate interview with Tapper on Sunday, Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, would not directly answer whether President Joe Biden was willing to open the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve or to stop gas and oil exports to address rising crude oil prices.

“We are very committed to do everything we can to make sure that American consumers don’t bear the brunt of high gas prices and volatile energy prices and the President has made clear that all options are on the table,” he said.

Tapping into the supply of the SPR, which is designed to protect the nation against a major disruption in oil supplies, would likely only provide modest, temporary relief from higher prices at the pump.

Last week, Biden was noncommittal on ordering a SPR release after the OPEC+ coalition rejected calls from the US and other large, oil-consuming nations to increase output by more than planned in December.

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