The rise in gas prices earlier this year had Republicans crying badly and blaming President Joe Biden and Democrats for the rise — although they started to rise in late 2020 under President Donald Trump.
These included a March 18 claim that we ruled largely false by US Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.: Gas prices are high “because of the Democrats’ war on fossil fuels.”
Johnson, of course, is locked in a tight re-election campaign.
And even though gas prices have fallen, he offered that demand a tweet dated Aug. 23:
“The radical green energy policies of the Democrats have caused gas prices to reach record highs. They want to fundamentally change our economy.”
There is little doubt about the second part of the claim. Democrats say they want to help the nation transition to a greener, more energy-efficient economy – by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change.
But let’s look at the first part, a new twist on Johnson’s earlier claim. We do this from time to time when a politician changes their rhetoric and we want to see if the new language is more accurate.
So have the Democrats and their energy policies “caused record gas prices”?
When asked to support the statement, Johnson’s spokeswoman, Alexa Henning, pointed out a number of things to us, including all of the material sent for that earlier fact-check that was found to be mostly false.
So let’s start there.
As we noted in the previous article:
Gasoline prices have been rising since the first wave of the coronavirus hit the United States in early 2020. According to a March 9 PolitiFact National article, gasoline prices were at their lowest in May 2020 at $1.87 a gallon but have since risen.
In January 2021, when Biden was inaugurated, gas prices were already at $2.33 a gallon, ahead of any new administration policy. In March 2022, prices averaged about $4 per gallon, according to PolitiFact.
Gas prices would peak on June 14 at a national average of $5.016 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline and have since fallen to $3.707 a gallon by September 13, according to the AAA.
Johnson and others have cited Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, but experts say it would have had a tiny impact on gas prices. If the new pipeline were online, it would add only about half a million barrels of oil per day to the 95 million barrels currently being produced.
But the pipeline shouldn’t even be live until the first quarter of 2023 — many months from now. So this is more than one track.
The other items, such as the suspension of drilling and mining on Bureau of Land Management properties and Biden’s signing of an executive order prohibiting the use of federal funds to subsidize fossil fuels, were also cited as reasons for the price hike.
Instead, experts pointed to factors such as the coronavirus pandemic disrupting world markets, and more recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions. In short, gasoline prices are part of a global market, so changes in US policy may contribute to price shifts, but are not solely responsible.
Gasoline prices have risen around the world, not just in the United States, undermining claims that the increases are solely due to Biden and Democrat policies.
The main thing that’s changed on this front since Johnson’s original claim, aside from the fall in prices, is the passage of two environmental-related laws.
The first is the CHIPS bill, passed on July 27, which the White House said would make investments to restore and expand U.S. leadership in semiconductor research, development and manufacturing.
Part of the action includes providing approximately $67 billion — a quarter of total funding of $280 billion — over the next five years for clean energy initiatives.
“This will be used to fund scientific research needed to combat climate change, including nanotechnology, clean energy, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, and disaster resilience research. It will also accelerate the growth of zero-carbon technology and establish a new federal agency to organize clean energy innovation,” according to earth.org.
The second measure is the Inflation Reduction Law, which was passed on August 16, a sweeping measure that had a huge climate change component. This includes a focus on investment in clean energy technologies, natural processes for reducing carbon emissions and energy-efficient modernization of businesses and households, and heavy investment in technologies to produce and use oil, gas and coal in the cleanest possible way.
The problem: Both of these measures were passed within the last month or so, and over that period gasoline prices have fallen.
In any case, Johnson’s associates said the senator is not citing them in his lawsuit.
This essentially leaves us where we were the last time we addressed this matter.
Hugh Daigle, a professor in the University of Texas, Austin’s Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, said looking back over the past two years, much of the movement in domestic gasoline prices has been driven by domestic politics, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine.
“The recent summer price spike was due to a combination of increased demand as the US transitioned into a travel summer with greatly reduced pandemic-related concerns and reduced supply due to refining capacity issues, all against a backdrop of high oil and oil prices Gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine,” Daigle told PolitiFact Wisconsin in an email.
Ericka Perryman, director of issue communications at American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, pointed out that gasoline, like the crude oil from which it is made, “is a global commodity whose price is determined by the market based on supply and demand, both current and future forecast, fixed.”
Perryman also said policies can affect gasoline prices.
“Crude oil is always the main price driver at the pump and now accounts for almost 55% of what consumers pay for gasoline. Politics also has an influence. In each of the four categories reflected in prices at the pump – crude oil costs, refining costs, sales and marketing costs, and federal and state taxes – policy makes a difference.”
So, as we’ve noted, politics can play a role in gas prices — but it’s hardly the only driver, or the only one, as Johnson suggests.
Johnson claimed that “Democrats’ radical green energy policies caused record gas prices.”
Experts say things like the end of subsidies to oil companies, fossil fuel companies ending drilling on public land and the termination of the Keystone XL pipeline may have had a small impact on gasoline prices, but the coronavirus pandemic is on supply and demand for oil and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions had a much larger impact.
In addition, prices are falling. Would that mean Democrats can argue that the new policy alone caused the decline? That would also be a route.
For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would suggest otherwise, our rating is “Mostly False.”
This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. Check out the sources here and more of their fact checks here.