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These fact checks of North Carolina politics are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.

Fact check: NC Rep. Hudson says Biden 'caused' energy crisis

A pumpjack at an oil well.
A pumpjack at an oil well.

It's time for a fact-check of North Carolina politics. Republican Rep. Richard Hudson, who represents the 9th District, east of Charlotte, recently claimed President Joe Biden is responsible for rising gas and energy prices in the U.S., and that his administration has done little about it. In a tweet on Jan. 12, Hudson wrote: "Joe Biden's war on American energy caused this crisis, and his only response has been to drain our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its lowest level since 1983." To find out if that's true, we turn now to Paul Specht of WRAL.

Marshall Terry: OK, Paul, so there are a few claims in that tweet. So let's start with the first one. Is it true that Joe Biden is responsible for the rise in gas prices? And I do want to point out really quickly, the national average price this week is $3.49 a gallon. That's according to GasBuddy. That's up about $0.14 from last year.

Paul Specht: Right. Most people would say that's a big oversimplification. Oil and gas prices are sort of fickle. They're affected by a lot of things. And experts told us primarily it's been — the price, that is — that has been impacted by sanctions on Russia after they invaded Ukraine, demand that was pent up during the pandemic and then the supply issue. So there are a lot of things that contribute to the price of gas. And the president's policies are not the main contributor to why they are high.

Terry: All right. Well, let's now look at the part of Hudson's tweet where he said that Biden drained our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its lowest level since 1983. First, just what is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?

Specht: The federal government has oil stocks that are stored underground and it's meant for emergencies. And it is accurate for anyone to say that the Biden administration has tapped into them in the wake of the COVID pandemic, specifically. And that's when a lot of the gas problems started.

Terry: And, is Hudson right? Did Biden drain it to its lowest level since 1983?

Specht: He did. That's correct. His administration did announce a plan a year or so ago to, sort of, release a certain amount of oil each month — about a million barrels of crude oil per day for six months. And then by January — there's a place you can go look this up — you can see the weekly stock of crude oil showed there were about 371 million barrels, and that is the lowest it had been since 1983.

Terry: Finally, there's one more part of Hudson's tweet, you fact-check. The congressman said Biden's only response to rising gas and energy prices was to turn to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Is that true?

Specht: That's not true. Again, there's only so much that the president can do. He doesn't have a magic wand he can wave to make these gas prices go back down. But there are some things he's done to sort of try to chip away at it. Some of them are long-term, like the Inflation Reduction Act that he signed last year. That includes $36 billion to incentivize people to buy more electric cars. And again, that's not something that would have an immediate impact. But the goal is to wean more Americans off of their reliance on gas and oil. In November, the Biden administration also eased sanctions on Venezuela, allowing Chevron to produce and export oil. And so it's also important to remember, too, that Biden is not halting gas or oil drilling in the United States. That rhetoric has been out there, too — again, something that PolitiFact has looked into. But under Biden's watch, the U.S. hit a new high for the number of drilling permits that were granted on federal lands. So there's a smattering of things the administration has done to try to nudge gas prices back down. He has taken some actions on it.

Terry: Now, what did Hudson say about the claims he was making in this tweet when you reached out to him?

Specht: His office pointed to a report by the Republican Study Committee. Now, that's just a group of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. And they pointed out 81 things that the Biden administration wants to do, or actions they've done, that sort of affect the energy market, at least on the oil side. They also said that he canceled the Keystone pipeline. Again, those are things that PolitiFact has addressed. The Keystone pipeline has a very minimal, almost no impact on the price of gas. You know, you could say that eventually it would have brought gas here or there, but that has nothing to do with the price these days. They didn't really prove their point. And that's the biggest takeaway here, is they have not linked the president's policies to why there is an energy crisis, not just in America, but globally. And I think people forget that sometimes is that this is not a U.S. problem. This is a world problem. And it was not caused by the American president.

Terry: So how did you rate this tweet from Congressman Richard Hudson?

Specht: We rated it mostly false. And that means that it has an element of truth. He was right -- the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is at its lowest level since 1983, and that is the Biden administration's doing. But he went way too far in saying that the president caused this crisis, linking it to gas prices. And to suggest that Biden hasn't done anything else about it. So that's where he went too far. That's how we ended up with mostly false.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.