As a Category 4 hurricane (almost category 5; 155 mph winds) slammed into southwest Florida on Wednesday morning, President Joe Biden made a commitment to "be there at every step of the way," after the storm devastates the state.
Biden also took the opportunity to lecture "oil and gas industry executives," warning them against price gouging in the aftermath of the storm. (The executives don't set retail gasoline prices, but never mind.)
Then, as soon as his solemn promise and stern warning were delivered, the president transitioned to "why we're all here" with a joke:
"The Secretary of Agriculture already said everything, so I'm leaving," the president joked, pretending to walk away from the podium. His audience roared with laughter.
It was a jarring transition from his remarks about life-threatening situation ("This storm is incredibly dangerous, to state the obvious; it's life-threatening.") and his stern warning to the oil industry ("Do not -- let me repeat, do not -- do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people.").
Biden said oil prices are going down, so "there's no excuse for price increases at the pump."
Biden said the price of oil has been going down, so gas prices should also be going down.
"My experts inform me the production of only about 190,000 of barrels a day has been impacted by the storm thus far. That's less than two percent of U.S. daily production impacted for a very short period of time.
This small temporary storm impact on oil production provides no excuse -- no excuse for price increases at the pump. None. If gas companies try to use this storm to raise prices at the pump, I will ask officials to look into whether price gouging is going on. America is watching, and the industry should do the right thing."
Biden complained that "there is too much of a delay" in lowering gas prices when oil prices come down.
As the American Petroleum Institute has explained, "Petroleum prices are determined by market forces of supply and demand, not individual companies, and the price of crude oil is the primary determinant of the price we pay at the pump."
Supply dislocations are sure to follow the catastrophic hurricane, which suggests that gasoline prices will tend to rise.