After President Joe Biden announced that the United States will impose sanctions on Russian oil imports, right-wing media immediately pounced on the decision, claiming Biden was shirking responsibility for high gas prices.
Right-wing media's attacks couldn't be more dishonest as they spent the early days of the invasion criticizing Biden for failing to enact sanctions. However, they haven’t changed their tune on unabashed support for increasing oil drilling and fracking. Their argument is that the high cost of gas is due not to the escalating uncertainty in the oil market due to the conflict in the Ukraine and lingering effects of COVID-19, but to Biden’s energy policies.
While gas prices certainly are increasing, when adjusted for inflation and taking into account increased car fuel efficiency, they’re relatively normal compared to the past 40 (and even 10) years. Furthermore, policies conservatives are blaming, like Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, likely have not significantly affected gas prices, which are more heavily influenced by global supply and demand fluctuations.
The right-wing media echo chamber has ignored these facts and instead pushed the narratives of oil lobbyists. Fox News has repeatedly brought on representatives from a major oil lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, to argue that sanctioning Russian oil is meaningless without an expansion of U.S. oil and gas production. However, experts say those moves likely would not curb gas prices (but will help oil companies).
The reality is, the price of oil going up has made oil companies’ expected profits set to increase. Yet, the story right-wing media is telling its audience makes it seem that giving American oil and gas companies more money is the only way out of the current gas price trends.
Here are a few examples of right-wing media adopting the point of view of oil lobbyists in their attacks on Biden’s latest sanctions:
- On March 8, Fox Business’ David Asman claimed Russia is a smokescreen for gas prices on Faulkner Focus, saying, “They are trying to lay the gas prices, the high gas prices at the pump, on Russia. Prices have been going up at the pump ever since President Biden was elected because the oil traders knew about his war on fossil fuels." He later added, “You listen to what [press secretary] Jen Psaki said. She’s blaming the Russian invasion on the gas price increases.”
- Fox’s Sean Hannity attacked Biden for claiming gas prices will rise due to banning Russian oil: “It's all Russia's fault, except the problem is something called the truth. Now, Joe, as prices have been rising since the day you were sworn in, and you canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, you put a pause on new oil and gas leases on all federal lands, you ended drilling and exploration on ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] in Alaska … and rejoined the Paris climate accords.”
- Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed Biden was using Putin as a “fall guy” for high gas prices.
- Fox Business’ Stuart Varney told Fox & Friends that voters know Biden is to blame for high gas prices, falsely citing green energy policies: “Voters know what's going on, and they know who’s to blame for this. Putin's war to some degree but green energy policies are the heart of this problem. Not going away.”
- After arguing for Biden to sanction Russian oil on his March 2 show, Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro claimed on his March 9 show that Biden’s doing it “as an excuse, so then he can blame Putin and Russia for gas prices that were already rising on his watch.”
- The New York Post blamed Biden’s energy policies broadly for rising gas prices in an article titled “Why Biden energy policies have contributed to surging oil prices.” The article cited several oil industry voices who claimed the issue is the Biden’s administration’s reluctance to grant drilling permits, even though permits have increased under Biden. Additionally, since the crude oil produced in the United States is different from the oil that is largely consumed in the U.S., more drilling would not solve that discrepancy.
- Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner asked the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, Mike Sommers, for his reactions to the “pushback that it's the oil companies that are making the prices go up once we get off Russian oil sources.” He responded by saying, “Of course what the Biden administration is saying right now is a complete red herring.”
- Faulkner later reported that “President Biden [was] not taking any responsibility for record high gas prices, putting all of the blame on Vladimir Putin and some on oil companies.”
- On the March 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Pete Hegseth criticized the Biden administration for blaming Putin and continued to defend oil executives, saying, “The energy industry knows they are trying to crush them and as a result they have no incentive to invest further. And they are trying to blame it on Vladimir Putin and hoping the rest of the country somehow buy it.” Later in the show Hesgeth called it part of “their war on fossil fuels.”
- While talking to Sommers, Fox News anchor Dana Perino asked, “They have a new hashtag, they’re calling it the Putin price hike but it’s only a matter of time before they start saying that the oil companies are the ones gouging American consumers. How will your companies, the member companies, handle that?”
- On America's Newsroom, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse reported from the perspective of oil companies: “The president is blaming the prices really on Russia but U.S. producers say his policies are also to blame, killing the XL pipeline, bringing oil from Canada. Imposing emission reductions under the Paris accord. Halting exploration in ANWAR. Canceling leases on federal land, ending subsidies and adding restrictions on methane and fracking. They say that creates an economic climate where industry says it can't get the financing to increase drilling.”