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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House’s call for OPEC to pump more oil in an effort to contain gasoline prices has experts puzzled.

Why it matters: While consumers would always love to see lower prices at the pump, they aren’t exactly sounding alarms as confidence remains high and spending has surged above pre-pandemic levels.

  • The news is also at odds with the administration's goals for tackling climate change. Days ago, an alarming United Nations report said the connection between human emissions of greenhouse gases and global warming was "unequivocal."

What they’re saying: The timing of Biden’s move is curious, as demand for oil may cool, especially in China, amid the spread of the Delta variant, Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets global head of commodity strategy, tells Axios.

  • In the U.S., the summer driving season is nearing its end, which means gasoline demand is about to taper off.
  • "It’s not like this recovery in oil prices at this exact moment looks that strong," Croft says.

Flashback: Worries about oil prices were much greater a month ago, Croft notes, when WTI crude prices breached $75 a barrel and seemed to be heading toward $90.

Zoom out: But gasoline prices have been climbing. According to AAA, the national average price for gasoline is $3.18 a gallon, up from $3.14 a month ago and $2.17 a year ago.

Our thought bubble, per Axios' Andrew Freedman: While the sitting president is often blamed if gas prices go higher, an Axios Engagious/Schlesinger focus group conducted Tuesday showed that the prices are not yet a top of mind issue.

  • None of the 13 voters said the price of gas would motivate them to vote for or against a candidate.
  • Focus group participants live in key swing states and voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters in crucial states are thinking and talking about current events.

What to watch: "The question is how far [the Biden administration is] willing to take this request," Croft says.

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2021 - Health

Democrats' attempt to lower private drug prices is likely to fail

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Democrats' most significant attempt to rein in health care costs in the private market— specifically prescription drug costs — is increasingly likely to fail.

Why it matters: U.S. health care costs have ballooned over the last few decades. But there's fierce industry resistance to allowing the government to step in and regulate private market prices. Plenty of lawmakers hate the idea as well.

This is what a profit margin squeeze looks like

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Two inflation indexes out this week, taken together, show how companies’ margins are getting squeezed.

Why it matters: Corporate earnings growth, while still historically high, is receding from record second-quarter levels. Margins will be a huge focus during Q3 earnings calls this month.

Coast Guard estimates California oil spill at nearly 25,000 gallons

Clean-up crews look for oil washing up near the pier in Huntington Beach, California, on Monday, as visitors returned to the beach. Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Image

The Coast Guard estimates that nearly 25,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled in an offshore pipeline leak in Southern California, AP reports.

Why it matters: The estimate is on the lower end of what officials initially feared when the state's Justice Department began investigating the massive oil spill off Orange County's Huntington Beach coastline. Officials originally thought the leak to be at least 25,000 gallons and no more than 132,000 gallons.