The White House went on defense on Tuesday over billionaire Jeff Bezos’ criticism of President Biden’s haranguing of gas companies for turning a profit amid “a time of war and global peril.”
“We completely disagree with Jeff Bezos,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “We will continue to call on everyone along that distribution chain … from oil companies to refineries to distributors to retailers, to pass their lower costs through to consumers.”
On Saturday, Mr. Biden put gas stations on blast over Twitter, as Americans hit the road for the weekend amid skyrocketing gas prices which the White House has, for months, struggled to gain control over.
“My message to the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump is simple: this is a time of war and global peril,” Mr. Biden wrote.
“Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product,” he said. “And do it now.”
Amid the chorus of disdain on Twitter, Mr. Bezos’ response stood out.
“Inflation is far too important a problem for the White House to keep making statements like this,” Mr. Bezos wrote in reply to the president’s post. “It’s either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.”
Oil companies say they are operating nearly at refining capacity, after demand plummeted during the pandemic. Republican lawmakers say Mr. Biden has exacerbated the problem with policies that discourage domestic oil production.
Mr. Biden’s criticism of gas station owners builds upon his row with oil giants whom he has accused of adding to the pain of high gas prices by boosting refinery profits, as American families break the bank to fill up.
Last month, the president became mired in a tense back-and-forth with Chevron Chairman and CEO Mike Wirth, who accused Mr. Biden of trying to “vilify” the fossil-fuel industry.
On Tuesday, Ms. Jean-Pierre stood by the president’s assessment that gas station companies were bilking American families at the pump, noting only a nominal dip in retail gas prices relative to crude and wholesale oil prices.
“Meanwhile those same retailers are profiting, their profits have gone up about 40 cents, nearly 40 cents in that same period of time,” she said before doubling down on the president’s calls for gas stations to trim their profits.
“What the president is saying is that everyone along that chain, along that production chain line, needs to make sure that they’re doing their part in bringing down the costs for the American people,” she said. “That is what we’re asking. Consumers should not be the first to pay and the last to benefit.”