Photo/Illutration President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on Nov. 23 in Washington. (AP Photo)

Gasoline was "as vital as blood in the coming battles," declared French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) during World War I.

With these words, he tried to convey his nation's urgent need for assistance from the United States, which was the world's top oil producer at the time, according to the book "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power" by U.S. author and energy expert Daniel Yergin.

In his strong feelings about oil, Clemenceau may well have met his match today in U.S. President Joe Biden.

Soaring gasoline prices are seriously hurting America as an automobile society. They are also causing the Biden administration's approval ratings to drop.

Earlier this month, the president pleaded with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to boost output to curb crude oil prices.

But failing to obtain the response he hoped for, Biden decided to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and sought cooperation from Japan, China and other major energy-consuming nations.

He apparently needed to let the nation know, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, that his administration means business.

But I am somewhat bemused by the fact that weaning America off fossil fuels was one of Biden's presidential election campaign pledges, and that battling climate change is still a core commitment of his administration.

And it is not only Biden who perplexes me. As if nobody remembers anymore the COP26 discussions earlier this month, more Americans are now calling for increased oil output.

Amid the current transition toward a carbon-free world, it is natural to hold back oil drilling.

Obviously, drastic price fluctuations that directly impact people's lives must be brought under control. But in the long run, it is necessary to accept higher crude oil prices and make adjustments in society accordingly.

In Japan, for instance, strawberries are in heavier demand around Christmas than when they are in season in early summer. And to meet demand in winter, the berries are grown in hothouses that burn a lot of heavy oil.

Consumers, too, need to ask themselves if they are doing the right thing.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 26

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.