(Bloomberg) — One of President Joe Biden’s top economic advisers touted White House efforts to tamp down soaring energy costs, a major driver of the largest annual consumer price increase since 1981.
“This president is dispatching his team do everything we can to help ease energy price pressures,” Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television following the Labor Department’s release of consumer price index data for March.
The widely followed inflation gauge showed consumer prices rose 8.5% over the past year — the most in four decades — and 1.2% from a month earlier, for the biggest one-month gain since 2005.
Bernstein cited Biden’s decision two weeks ago to order the largest-ever release from the strategic petroleum reserve in showcasing the administration’s efforts to address the rising cost of living.
Biden on Tuesday will announce plans to allow expanded sales of higher-ethanol gasoline in a further effort to lower costs at the pump.
Gasoline costs drove half of the March monthly increase, and food was also a large contributor. Prices for rent and services such as airline fares also rose.
White House officials are attempting to cast inflation as an outgrowth of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, referring to increased energy costs as “Putin’s price hike.”
“A full 70% of that increase is due to energy costs, 63% of that increase is due to gas alone,” Bernstein said. “In other words, this is a CPI print very much with the fingerprints of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and its impact on commodity prices.”
Rising prices across the board, however, have dogged the administration for the past year, long before Putin moved into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The risk for the White House is that the rising costs continue to hurt Americans’ bottom lines — and potentially color their perception of Democrats’ handling of the economy six months out from midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.
Read more: Biden Aide Deese Says US Economy Now ‘Facing Rocky Waters’
The latest inflation data also reinforce pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates even more aggressively.
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