President Biden on Wednesday helped christen a General Motors factory that manufactures electric vehicles, zipping around in a battery-powered Hummer to highlight a transition to energy-efficient cars and trucks that the president hopes his $1 trillion infrastructure law will accelerate.

But the visit came on a day when Mr. Biden was dealing with a more immediate problem — surging gas prices. Before he left for Michigan, the president asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether oil and gas companies were engaging in “illegal conduct” that was driving up prices at the pump.

Mr. Biden toured G.M.’s “Factory Zero,” watching workers bolt a 3,000-pound battery into the body of a white Hummer truck and then taking one for a spin in a lot behind the plant.

“These suckers are something else,” he said after the drive.

In a speech at the plant, Mr. Biden said it was an economic and environmental necessity that the United States lead the world in electric vehicle production. “We’re going to make sure that these jobs end up in Michigan,” he said, “not halfway around the world.”

The split-screen of what Mr. Biden calls America’s future and the immediate political pain of high gas prices showcased just how far the United States has to go to catch up to its rivals in the race for low-emission vehicles and how dependent it remains on fossil fuels.

Soaring gas prices, driven upward by an OPEC choke on production and renewed driving activity as commuters and tourists return from a pandemic hiatus, have dented Americans’ views of the economy and helped fuel an acceleration of inflation that has jeopardized part of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda in Congress.

The average gallon of gas was nearly $3.40 in the United States on Monday, according to the Energy Information Administration, its highest price in seven years.

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On Wednesday, Mr. Biden asked the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether large oil and gas companies were artificially pushing up gasoline prices for American consumers, the administration’s latest effort to target concentration in the energy industry in a bid to bring down costs.

The move is unlikely to spur immediate action by the F.T.C., which has the power to break up large industry players, and it is unlikely to affect gasoline prices materially anytime soon. But it could prompt the commission to open an investigation to gather data on how companies set gasoline prices, which could be used in future enforcement actions.

Posted in: USA