Looking Back: What the State of the Union Means for C-Stores

Biden’s address to the U.S. last week touched on many issues that impact c-store retailers.

March 09, 2022

Capitol Dome of the United States of America

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—President Joe Biden’s State of the Union (SOTU) took place only a week ago, but it feels like it’s been decades since he addressed the nation. In a week, global oil futures hit as much as $139 a barrel, and gas prices have hit record highs. The president also announced a ban on U.S. imports of crude oil, natural gas and energy from Russia in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued war on Ukraine.

During his Tuesday announcement of the ban, Biden also touted the need to electrify the vehicle fleet and said, “This crisis is a stark reminder to protect our economy. Over the long term we need to become energy independent. It should motivate us to accelerate a transition to clean energy.”

Biden spoke similar words during the SOTU, referencing once again the administration’s 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charger goal and a call to lower prices of EV vehicles so people can save on charging.  

“That’s one of his highest profile goals during his first term,” said Doug Kantor, NACS general counsel, during this week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode. “He did couch it this time in the context of you have lower cost to refuel, that is to charge the vehicle, and not have to worry about gas if you’re driving an electric vehicle. That certainly plays into where we are politically today and people’s worries about gas prices.”

Minimum wage was also a topic mentioned during the SOTU, and Kantor says there will be a lot of upcoming talk surrounding this issue but not right away.

“Minimum wage tends to be one of those issues that gets talked about a lot during election years and not nearly as much during non-election years,” he said. “It is not something that has a legislative path to getting done so we don’t think that’s going to take place this year.”

When inflation is high, credit card fees are multipliers of inflation because they’re a percentage of the purchase price, says Kantor. As prices go up, they go up more because of card fees. The Merchant Payments Coalition, which was founded by NACS in 2005, is working to lower swipe fees, and there will be more discussion on the fees this year.

“Frankly, the president’s discussion of antitrust was not specific to that area, but the thinking among the antitrust enforcement agencies, like the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, certainly includes those card companies as well as a lot of the popular focuses on the big technology platforms out there and what they mean on antitrust,” said Kantor, “I do think there will be a lot more discussion of those fees and what they do to main street and to consumers.”

Kantor breaks down more of the president’s SOTU in this week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode No. 326, and what his words mean for the convenience retailing industry, including big tech, privacy and immigration.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at scounihan@convenience.org.