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Expand chart
Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Gasoline prices heading into Memorial Day weekend — the start of the summer driving season — are fairly modest by historical standards and lower than last year's levels.

Why it matters: It's a break for people who need or choose to drive long distances. That's also good news for President Trump. Energy prices are politically ominous for presidents when they're high.

  • This isn't lost on Trump, who tried to take credit for gasoline prices when they were falling early in the year and in general likes to highlight the topic.
  • He also makes a public show of leaning on OPEC.

But, but, but: U.S. presidents have limited and indirect influence on pump prices. Instead, they're most directly tethered to oil prices set on global markets that respond to all kinds of global economic and geopolitical forces.

  • Most recently, trade disputes are putting downward pressure on prices.
  • Overall, the White House faces a tricky balancing act as it toughens sanctions against Iranian exports while trying to avoid political blowback over how that could put upward pressure on crude prices.

Where it stands: Gasoline prices have been rising for much of the year but dipped in recent weeks. Per AAA, the nationwide average price is $2.85 per gallon for regular gasoline today, roughly 12 cents below last year at this time. AAA says...

"For the 37.6 million motorists hitting the road for Memorial Day they can expect gas prices to be cheaper than last year with the exception of a few states in the West Coast and Rockies region."

Go deeper: The states with the most expensive gas prices

Go deeper

United CEO is confident people will feel safe traveling again by 2022

Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

The risks and rewards of charging state-backed hackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week’s stunning indictment of three North Korean hackers laid bare both the advantages and drawbacks of the U.S. government’s evolving strategy of using high-profile prosecutions to publicize hostile nation-state cyber activities.

Why it matters: Criminal charges can help the U.S. establish clear norms in a murky and rapidly changing environment, but they may not deter future bad behavior and could even invite retaliation against U.S. intelligence officials.

45 mins ago - World

Scoop: Netanyahu asked Biden to keep Trump's sanctions on International Criminal Court

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Photo: Bas Czerwinski/ANP/AFP via Getty

Netanyahu asked Biden in their first phone call last week to keep sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in place, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli officials are concerned that removing the sanctions would hamper Israel's efforts to stop a potential war crimes investigation into Israel, and that the court's prosecutor could see it as a signal that the U.S. isn't firmly opposed to that investigation.