Nothing can make or break a president’s political fortunes like the price of gasoline. As Ben Lefebvre reports for Politico, President Biden is trying to ease the pain by tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, easing rules on ethanol sales, and proposing a temporary gas tax cut. Such bandages might bring temporary economic and political reprieve, but they’re not likely to last, according to Lefebvre. Others may disagree. For example, Republicans blame Biden’s climate agenda and are apt to call for more drilling. Environmentalists and transportation analysts say oil prices are bound to fall amid rising demand for electric vehicles and renewable fuels. That may be true, eventually, but US demand for gasoline will remain high for the foreseeable future, and there’s not much anyone can do about it, writes Lefebvre.
The problem boils down to the nation’s refining capacity, which has fallen steadily in recent years, not because of political directives or decreased demand but—in several ways—as a result of climate change. First, there’s the physical threat posed by intensifying storms along the Gulf Coast. That’s why Phillips 66 closed a Louisiana refinery damaged by Hurricane Ida last year, and it’s also why insurance rates are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, Shell shuttered a Louisiana refinery as part of its “strategic shift to shrink its fossil fuel asset portfolio.” It’s being converted to produce biodiesel. Others are following suit as executives and investors adapt to the economic and politic realities of climate change. Nobody plans to build new refineries, and those that remain are old and getting older. And that’s why any future presidents should expect to feel Biden’s pain. Read Lefebvre’s analysis here. (Read more gas prices stories.)