The Republican National Committee (RNC) held three voter registration drives outside of gas stations in Arizona over the weekend and intends to hold more, using the recent rise in gas prices to mobilize voters in the upcoming midterm elections.
Current gas prices are around $4.25 per gallon on average across the U.S., a 20 percent increase from prices a month ago and more than $1.30 higher per gallon than what it cost last year. Conservatives have largely blamed the Biden administration for the increases, although experts say that the costs of gasoline are outside of the president’s purview.
In spite of this, GOP officials say that they will continue registering voters at gas pumps as a political strategy.
“There’s no doubt that everyone is feeling the pain at the pump, so a gas station right now may be the very best possible place for one of our volunteers to have a conversation with someone and get someone signed up to vote,” said Ben Petersen, communications director for Arizona RNC, in an interview with The Hill.
A recent poll found that 30 percent of Americans blame President Joe Biden for higher prices at the pump, with 60 percent of Republican respondents saying that Biden is to blame for the higher costs.
RNC chair Ronna McDaniel welcomed the idea of registering voters at gas stations, using the hashtag #BidenGasHike on Twitter. When a supporter said they should expand the idea, McDaniel responded by saying that they are “doing this across the country.”
Republicans claim that Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline and other environmental moves have resulted in higher prices at the pump. But in reality, the closing of the pipeline had zero effect on prices, and the Biden administration has kept oil production at the same levels as during the Trump administration.
In 2020 — the last full year of Trump’s presidency — the U.S. was producing 11.3 million barrels of oil per day on average. In 2021, the country produced nearly the same amount, and the U.S. is expected to exceed that rate in 2022, producing 12 million barrels of oil per day.
In fact, to the detriment of the environment, the Biden White House has also opened up more areas for drilling — the administration approved 333 drilling permits per month in its first year, a rate that is higher than three of the four years of Trump’s presidency.
Aside from Biden placing sanctions on Russian oil, the president has had very little to do with why prices have gone up. Costs remain high because gas and oil companies want them to, progressive lawmakers have said, noting that even as oil prices have decreased from recent highs, gas prices have stayed stubbornly high.
“Big oil CEOs need to be held accountable for profiteering, this can’t stand,” wrote Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) on Twitter last Monday.
“Oil companies are “profiteering,” chimed in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). “And there should be consequences for it.”
Last week, Biden condemned oil companies for rising gas prices.
“Oil prices are decreasing, gas prices should too. … Oil and gas companies shouldn’t pad their profits at the expense of hardworking Americans,” Biden said.