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Biden speaking from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 22. Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden directed the Department of Energy on Tuesday to release 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help lower fuel prices.

Why it matters: It's the Biden administration's most direct effort yet to tamp down on high gasoline prices that have become a political headache for the White House amid wider inflation.

  • The move comes after House Democrats urged Biden in a letter Monday to release crude oil and temporarily ban exports, according to Reuters.

By the numbers: Gasoline prices are averaging around $3.40 a gallon, more than $1 per gallon higher than a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association.

  • 32 million barrels will be released over the next several months and eventually replaced in the coming years.
  • 18 million barrels will be part of a sale that was previously authorized by Congress.
  • The reserve held a total of 604 million barrels of oil as of Nov. 19, according to the Energy Department.

The big picture: The Biden administration said the effort, for the first time, will be coordinated with releases from other major oil consumers nations, including China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

  • Global energy prices have swung wildly over the last two years because of oil supply disruptions and demand imbalances set off by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Biden has repeatedly urged OPEC and its allied countries to ramp up production to meet demand, but the oil cartel has largely ignored his demands and stuck to its current plan to raise output by 400,000 barrels per day in December.
  • The International Energy Agency said last week that though the global oil market remains tight, "a reprieve from the price rally could be on the horizon" as U.S. production rises, Axios' Ben Geman reports.

Yes, but: It's unclear whether the release, even alongside the other countries' releases, will have any sustained, significant effect on prices.

Go deeper: Biden asks FTC to investigate gas and oil companies for "illegal conduct"

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to state that gasoline prices are more than $1 per gallon higher than a year ago (not double).

Go deeper

The U.S. isn’t alone: Over 35 countries hit with inflation

Expand chart
Data: OECD, reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation in the U.S. has risen during the past two years at the third-fastest rate out of 46 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other economically significant countries.

The big picture: Rising prices aren’t just a problem in the United States. Thirty-nine of the countries analyzed by the Pew Research Center saw inflation increase between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of this year.

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.