President Biden again blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for much of inflation in the United States, while warning that the war in Ukraine will “continue to take its toll” on the world’s economy.
During remarks in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the president acknowledged that American families are “struggling with higher prices” amid record-high inflation, but again said the reason for the surge was due the COVID-19 pandemic and Putin’s unprecedented war in Ukraine.
“The second big reason for inflation is Vladimir Putin. Not a joke,” Biden said Tuesday. “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world.”
Biden said that last month, “about 70% of the increase in inflation was a consequence of Putin’s price hike.”
Inflation numbers were released last week revealing a new four-decade high in March as Russia’s war in Ukraine fueled rapid price gains for oil and gas that wiped out the benefits of rising wages for most Americans.
The consumer price index rose 8.5% in March from a year ago, according to the Labor Department report released Tuesday, marking the fastest increase since January 1982 when inflation hit 8.4% The CPI, which measures a bevy of goods ranging from gasoline and health care to groceries and rents, jumped 1.2% in the one-month period from January.
At grocery stores, Americans have seen meat prices increase by 14.8%, fish by 10.9%, eggs by 11.2%, milk by 13.3%, fruits and vegetables by 8.1%, and coffee by 11.2% since last year.
As for gas prices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans have been paying 32% more for energy than last year, and 48% more for gasoline.
Biden, last month, announced a ban on all imports of Russian oil, gas and energy to the United States, targeting the “main artery” of Russia’s economy amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, but warned that the ban would cost American families.
Russian oil accounts for about one-third of Europe’s oil imports, but is just under 10% of U.S. overall imports.
“I’m doing everything I can to bring down the price to address Putin’s price hike,” the president said Tuesday, recalling his administration’s move last month to release 1 million barrels of oil each day for the next six months from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to combat soaring gasoline prices.
The Bureau of Land Management will begin issuing final environmental assessments and sale notices on Monday for future oil and gas projects and will offer for lease “approximately 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 acres, an 80 percent reduction from the acreage originally nominated,” BLM stated.
Biden had said during the campaign that he wanted to end such leases and put a moratorium on them the first day of his presidency. The administration, in making the announcement, sought to emphasize that it was trying to reopen drilling responsibly.
“How we manage our public lands and waters says everything about what we value as a nation,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands.”
And last month, upon announcing the move, Biden said his plan would release around 180 million additional barrels from the strategic petroleum reserve, which would leave the already-depleted stockpile down to around 388 million barrels, the lowest level since March 1984.
But the White House said the “historic” release would provide oil supply to “serve as a bridge until the end of the year when domestic production ramps up.”
The president spoke Tuesday with European allies and partners and noted that he has gotten other countries to also “release petroleum from their reserves.”
“So we work with the U.S. oil producers to ramp up the production, and we coordinate this release with our partners and allies around the world,” the president said, adding that since his announcement, 30 countries have agreed to “60 million additional barrels a day on the market,” calling it “the largest collected reserve release in history.”
Biden said that nations are “coming together to help deny Putin the ability to weaponize energy resources against American families and families in Europe and around the world.”
“The fact is that we are in a situation where the war in Ukraine is going to continue to take its toll on the world economy,” Biden said.
The president said the U.S. would take on the “challenges” of inflation from “a position of strength.”
“I’m more optimistic about America today than I have ever been in my whole career because I see the future that’s within our grasp,” the president said. “We can’t be afraid, though.”
“We’re the only nation on Earth that has always turned every single solitary crisis we’ve had into an opportunity—that’s exactly what we’re going to do today,” he continued.
Biden added: “If we do it together—it is about being together, the United States of America—there is not a single thing we can’t do.”