Elections 2022EnergyAmid Record-High Gas Prices, Texas Democrats Face Mounting Political Pressure

Gas prices are often the most visible victim of inflation, with the fluctuations seen on so many street corners.
June 15, 2022
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On nearly every street corner is a reminder of daily life’s growing expense, a standard-bearer of the inflation hamstringing the nation. Because it is so visible, jumps in gas prices also make for useful political fodder.

Pumps across Texas and the country have been emblazoned with stickers depicting President Joe Biden pointing to the price window captioned, “I did that.”

The average gas price in Texas is $4.69 — 125 percent more than the average price when Biden assumed office in January 2021. Texas is about 32 cents lower than the national average. 

The county with the highest average is Roberts County in the Panhandle at $5.30, while the lowest is North Texas’ Wilbarger County at $4.37.

Biden’s approval ratings have sunk below 40 percent for the first time since the buildup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the RealClearPolitics job approval average.

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Republicans are banking on the political leverage supplied by rising gas prices in their quest to rebuke the federal government’s currently dominant party in the midterms. “[W]e refuse to sit idly by and watch as ordinary, hard-working Texans are devastated by another crisis created by the Biden administration,” the Texas GOP said, announcing they would set up voter registration drives at gas stations across the state.

Meanwhile, the Texas Democratic Party has not similarly harped on the gas prices themselves but has put out messaging on “how Biden’s economic plan is working for Texas.”

In an email, the state’s minority party touted economic growth and unemployment gains made since the drastic spike at the pandemic’s beginning. A gas-related talking point they mention is the White House’s order to release 40.1 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve into the market in May, aimed at driving down oil prices. The federal government plans to release 90 million more barrels later this year.

In 2021, the U.S.’s average daily oil consumption was about 20 million barrels. Texas consumes about 4.7 million barrels of crude oil per day in gasoline, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In the gubernatorial race, Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign spokesman, Mark Miner, hit Beto O’Rourke on the issue, saying, “With record gas prices sweeping Texas, the anti-energy policies promoted by extreme liberal Beto O’Rourke would only make the pain at the pump even worse.”

The campaign further pointed to O’Rourke’s support for prohibiting new drilling operations on federal land, in line with the Biden administration’s order issued in his first week on the job. While Texas has a relatively small amount of drilling on federal land compared with states like New Mexico, about 120,000 jobs in the state are tied to those operations, per an analysis by the pro-oil and gas American Petroleum Institute.

During his run, O’Rourke has tried to toe the line between the far-left wing of his party that wants to eliminate fossil fuels entirely and the unavoidable problem of running for statewide office in the most prolific oil- and gas-producing state in the country.

At the local level, especially in South Texas, Republicans are campaigning hard on “kitchen table issues” — such as the prices at the gas pump.

Prices have been steadily on the rise after the price of oil futures plunged into the negatives in April 2020. Domestic energy policy is not the only contributor to rising prices.

Factors out of Biden’s control, such as the war in Ukraine, OPEC’s production decisions, and the post-coronavirus reshuffling of travel habits, all play into the price Texans pay at the pump. But Congress’s decision to spend trillions of dollars, first during the Trump administration and now with Biden’s approval, has caused monetary inflation to reach a 40-year high.

As Texans fork over more cash for their gas, the debt on a political price builds as the date of payment nears on November 8. Republicans hope to return the favor from Democrats’ 2018 midterm surge sparked by the same name appearing at the top of the minority party’s ticket four years ago.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.