Edzell Lowry knows firsthand about rising gas prices. He owns Sun-Do gas station in Pembroke. Lowry, a former Democrat who later registered as unaffiliated, recently switched to the Republican Party.
The Republican National Committee sees America’s pain at the pump, but also the opportunity to turn that frustrated consumer into a Republican voter. The RNC is setting up voter registration tables at gas stations in several states across the country, including North Carolina.
“As someone who sees firsthand how detrimental the Biden gas hike has been on North Carolinians, the decision to change my voter registration to Republican was an easy one,” said Lowry. “Overall, Republicans handle the economy better. Joe Biden and the rest of the Democrats are why we are experiencing such high gas prices and inflation rates, and they need to be held responsible at the ballot box.”
Lowry isn’t alone. Savannah Viar, the RNC’s Southeast regional communications director, said the plan has been a success both in North Carolina and across the United States. Quite simply, people are fed up with increasing prices at not only the gas pump but also grocery stores. “People are planning out trips to the grocery store and the gas station when they get paid,” she said. “It’s the first time they have ever had to do that. People vote with their pocketbooks.”
“It’s a connecting point,” said Jeff Moore, communications director for the N.C. Republican Party. “These are issues that bring the impact of policy to the forefront. People actually feel it. That’s what the ‘pain at the pump’ phrase means because you are really feeling that. You are wincing as you are looking at it.”
Policy becomes prices
Canceling the Keystone XL Pipeline on day one set the tone for President Biden’s administration. Even though he blames Putin’s war with Ukraine and the decision to cut oil imports from Russia, prices were already increasing at record amounts beforehand, thanks to Biden’s policies that also include pushing for people to purchase electric vehicles. Seeing Biden’s “I Did That” stickers plastered all over gas pumps nationwide only speaks to the American people’s frustration when they have to spend extra money that they shouldn’t have to.
“These were proactive decisions that were made by Joe Biden and his administration to increase prices and to cut off domestic supplies,” said Michael Whatley, NCGOP chairman. Whatley runs HBW Resources, an energy consulting firm. “There’s nothing that hits American families, small businesses, and farms more directly than the price of fuel.”
Whatley said registering people at the pump has been very successful because they are connecting with people right when they are thinking about the issues that affect their households. The Republican energy agenda, he said, is about putting American families and small businesses first, creating opportunities, and lowering energy prices that help manufacturers, farmers, and transportation.
“When you talk about 90% of all goods in the grocery store are delivered by truck, you are going to see higher prices on the shelves,” he added.
In addition to disruptions of fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine, the rising cost of fertilizer manufacturing is affected by the decreased supply of natural gas, the single most significant input of fertilizer manufacturing. Natural gas prices track oil prices directly, Whatley said. “When we see oil and natural gas leases being shut down, that’s why we are seeing it,” he said. “We are going to see the impact of that fertilizer crunch in the food crunch over the next several months.”
He said that in addition to not being able to get leases and permits, the United States can’t build pipelines to get the gas to market under the Biden administration, referencing the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania. “That’s one of the biggest fields in the world,” Whatley said. “And yet we have to import natural gas from Russia to Boston because they can’t get it from a pipeline in Pennsylvania.”
Party leader pushes for Trump energy policy
Whatley, one of the principal deputy assistant secretaries of energy for President George W. Bush, also ran President Donald Trump’s energy team during his transition into office.
“You look at what President Trump did from day one when he took office. He worked to reduce the price at the pump, and he was very successful,” Whatley said. “He permitted pipelines, opened up new areas for leasing, and put in regulatory relief. All of that was designed to produce more domestic production of energy.”
Whatley said, as a result, it reduced the price at the pump, created American jobs, and grew the economy. It also pinched the Russian military and economy because energy exports fund them.
Biden announced last week that he would release 1 million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months in an effort to ease gas prices. This is the second time Biden has tapped the reserve since last November. The reserve is designed to be used in emergencies when hurricanes shut down the Gulf of Mexico or when refineries go down. Whatley said it wouldn’t amount to much.
“The amount he’s releasing sounds big, but it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said. “Right now, we are producing 2 million barrels a day less than we did during the Trump administration. Releasing this much oil from the petroleum reserves is a press release, but it’s not a fix for the supply crisis that the president has created.”
Whatley said there is a relatively quick fix that the Biden administration could implement. It could end its war on fossil fuels and domestic energy. It could go back to the permitting regime and say America is going to develop its energy resources and the pipelines to get it to market, which would send an immediate price signal.
“We saw the price of oil drop even before Donald Trump took office because he told everybody this is what we are going to do and sent that price signal,” Whatley said. “The Biden administration has the ability right now to change course and support American energy production, which will help across the world, not just here in the United States.”