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President Trump speaking at the White House during a meeting. Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is in a tight spot as he tries to pressure Iran with revived sanctions while avoiding political blowback for Republicans, and himself, from higher energy prices that hit businesses and consumers.

The big picture: There are simply too many variables to say with any certainty where oil prices — which are at their highest levels since late 2014 — will go moving forward. But Trump’s hawkish posture could bring domestic economic ripples.

Starkly put: "The Trump administration faces a conundrum," writes Barclays analyst Michael Cohen in a note Friday.

  • "Given President Trump's tweet of 20 April expressing frustration with OPEC, the administration cannot tighten the sanctions regime on both Iran and Venezuela and still have lower gasoline prices for consumers," he writes, referring to the tweet blaming OPEC for "artificially high" prices.

Climbing: Gasoline prices are heading upward and AAA reports that the nationwide average is now $2.91-per-gallon, up from $2.34 at this time last year.The federal Energy Information Administration, in a May 8 report that landed before Trump's Iran announcement later that day, predicted that the average household will spend $300 more on motor fuel costs this year.

Worrying: Reuters reported Thursday afternoon that big U.S. retailers and their investors are expressing concern about the effect of higher fuel costs.

  • "In a media call after its quarterly report on Thursday, Walmart Inc. said some consumers may be feeling pressure from higher gas prices, though demand remained strong," they report.
  • The story also notes that Walmart and Home Depot also say that higher freight costs are putting pressure on their margins.

Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of the multinational oil giant Total, said Thursday that prices could be at $100 "in the coming months."

  • "We are in a new world. We are in a world where geopolitics are dominating the market again," he said, per AFP, at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • Yes, but: Commodities analysts generally predict prices well below that. The new Barclays note, for instance, boosts their price forecast but still expects Brent crude to average $70 this year and $65 in 2019.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.