The White House announced Tuesday that President Joe Biden had directed the Department of Energy to release 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S.'s strategic reserve in the hopes of lowering gas prices.
"We shouldn't stand by idly and let prices drop on their own. Instead, we're taking action," Biden said in prepared remarks from the White House on Tuesday.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, the White House said that of the 50 million barrels that will be used up from the reserve, 32 million barrels would "eventually return" in an exchange that will take place in the years ahead. Eighteen million barrels will act as "an acceleration into the next several months of a sale of oil that Congress had previously authorized."
In the statement, the White House blamed current high gas prices on supply chain issues wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight, it will make a difference," Biden said. "...I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump."
The price of gas has been elevated across the country in the past year. According to AAA, the current national average for a gallon of gas is $3.40, up from a national average of $2.11 a year ago.
In Maricopa County, the average price for a gallon of gas is $3.83 as of Tuesday. Arizona's current average is $3.74 per gallon, up more than $1.50 one year ago.
"Last year was an abnormal year where we saw lower than average gas prices, so a lot of people are reflecting on what they were seeing this time last year," said Arizona AAA spokesman Aldo Vazquez.
"But the thing is we’re actually starting to get back to what life was like before the pandemic and gas prices are starting to mirror that life again," according to Vazquez.
Comparing current gas prices in Arizona to what was seen last year, driver frustration is understandable, according to Vazques.
The move announced by the White House on Tuesday comes just days after Biden directed the FTC to investigate potential "illegal conduct" and anti-competitive behavior by gas and oil companies over keeping prices higher than they needed to be.
Biden has also pressured oil-rich countries around the world to pump more oil, but his efforts have not yet made headway.