WASHINGTON, DC -- The average price of gas in Rhode Island as of this week is $3.40 per gallon, according to AAA.  Gas prices in Rhode Island have risen by 25 cents over the past month, and are forecasted to continue rising.

In an effort to help alleviate gas prices, U.S. Senator Jack Reed and 10 colleagues sent a letter to President Biden urging the administration to “consider all tools available at your disposal to lower U.S. gasoline prices.  This includes a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a ban on crude oil exports.  We hope you will consider these tools and others to make gasoline more affordable for all Americans.”

In addition to Senator Reed, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Crude oil prices represent the biggest factor in terms of the prices that consumers pay at the gas pump.  But the cost of refining, distribution expenses, taxes, and rent for the gas station also influence the price at the pump.

Gas price experts have pointed to a “perfect storm” of factors that have contributed to the recent gas price spike, including: U.S. oil producers slowing production down during the height of the pandemic and laying workers off; COVID-related bottlenecks in the supply chain; OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia are severely limiting petroleum production; extensive hurricane damage to Louisiana refineries; and a downed pipeline from Atlanta to the East Coast.

Senator Reed also noted that the Trump Administration’s reckless energy policy -- including his disastrous election year deal with Saudi Arabia and Russia that saw a slash in OPEC production to try to increase crude oil prices -- has contributed to the pain consumers are now feeling at the pump. 

“Instead of allowing the market to work, investing in clean energy technology, and strengthening domestic energy infrastructure, the Trump Administration fixated on propping up the stock price of big oil companies, rolling back vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and cozying up to Saudi Arabia and Russia.  Now Americans are paying more at the pump and our nation is more vulnerable to the oil whims of Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other adversarial dictatorships abroad,” stated Reed.  “Oil companies are enjoying the surge in fuel prices.  Consumers are not.  And it has to end.  Some of the upward pressure on oil prices today is directly tied to the fact that oil producers can make more money by producing less oil.  For the good of our economy and national security, we must ween ourselves off a system that is so ripe for foreign manipulation and driven by greed.”

“No one President is entirely responsible for gas prices.  But the smartest thing we can do to insulate America from future global oil price shocks is to reduce our dependence on oil in general, and especially foreign oil.  That means investing in America’s transition to a clean energy future, upgrading our energy technology infrastructure, and making our communities and economy more energy efficient,” concluded Reed.

Full text of the letter follows:

November 8, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden:

We are writing to express our support for your efforts to help families and businesses across the nation who are struggling to cope with soaring gasoline prices.  We agree with your recent comments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that as the United States works to boost the development of clean and renewable energy over the long-term, we must ensure that Americans are able to afford to fill up their cars at the pump in the meantime.

According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline is the highest it has been since 2014, with an increase of more than $1 per gallon since this time last year.  In our home states, high gasoline prices have placed an undue burden on families and small businesses trying to make ends meet, and have proven especially burdensome as our constituents continue to recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We share the administration’s concerns that the decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and others to purposefully manipulate gas prices by constraining supply, as well as the choice of domestic leaseholders and producers to continue to export U.S. petroleum, threaten to send already record prices even higher.  Continued U.S. exports and overseas supply collusion could be devastating to many in our states, contributing to higher bills for American families and businesses.

In light of these pressing concerns, we ask that you consider all tools available at your disposal to lower U.S. gasoline prices.  This includes a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a ban on crude oil exports.  We hope you will consider these tools and others to make gasoline more affordable for all Americans 

Please do not hesitate to contact our offices if you have any questions.  We look forward to your prompt response on this important issue.