WASHINGTON: United States President Joe Biden's administration is raising alarms at home and abroad about rising energy prices slowing the nation's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic-induced recession.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday (Aug 11) called on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to move faster to restore the global supply of petroleum to pre-pandemic levels, as the White House asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the domestic gasoline market for any anti-competitive behaviour that could be increasing prices.
The joint actions on 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 that 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 US 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 US headline inflation rate, due on Wednesday, to grow at an annualised rate of 5.3 per cent. This is slightly lower than June’s 5.4 per cent, which was the highest in more than a decade.
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 virus-induced lockdowns.