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Biden threatens oil companies with ’emergency powers’

Pumping gas. (PxHere/Released)
June 15, 2022

In another apparent attempt to shift blame for soaring gas prices away from his administration, President Joe Biden threatened to use “emergency powers” against American oil companies this week if they don’t increase oil production.

In a June 14 letter sent to the CEOs of Marathon Petroleum Corp, Valero Energy Corp, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Chevron, BP and Shell, Biden wrote that his administration is “prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied.”

“I am prepared to use all tools at my disposal, as appropriate, to address barriers to providing Americans affordable, secure energy supply,” he added.

Biden wrote that he “principally” blames Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for high fuel prices, while asserting that gas companies are also responsible for the pain at the pump.

“There is no question that Vladimir Putin is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing. But amid a war that has raised gasoline: prices more than $1.70 per gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are worsening that pain,” the letter stated.

Biden asserted that oil companies can “take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel, and other refined product” and that they have “ample market incentive” to do so “safely.”

“The lack of refining capacity — and resulting unprecedented refinery profit margins — are blunting the impact of the historic actions my Administration has taken to address Vladimir Putin’s Price Hike and are driving up costs for consumers. I appreciate your immediate attention to this issue and your efforts to mitigate the economic challenges that Vladimir Putin’s actions have created for American families,” Biden’s letter concluded.

Biden’s calls for the increasing oil production come weeks after he canceled oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Wall Street Journal. He also canceled the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office and — prior to the 2020 election — vowed to completely end oil production.

“No more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends,” Biden said at the time.

Meanwhile, Biden’s climate czar John Kerry said last week that “we absolutely don’t” need to drill for more oil.

“Energy security worry is driving a lot of the thoughts now about ‘oh, we need more drilling that, we need more drilling this, we need to go back to coal.’ No, we don’t. We absolutely don’t. And we have to prevent a false narrative from entering into this,” Kerry said.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) recognized the contradictions in Biden and his administration’s messaging, tweeting that it is “chaos.”

“Biden promised to end drilling & enacted policies to restrict oil. But now he mails a letter to oil firms complaining they’re not drilling enough?” Cotton tweeted. “This isn’t just incoherence⁠—it’s chaos.”

Last month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and over a dozen other lawmakers urged the Biden administration to “issue [delayed] permits required to bring additional production online from existing offshore federal oil and gas leases.”

“While the Biden Administration and Members of Congress fault the domestic oil and gas industry for sitting idle on over 9,000 drilling permits and millions of acres in ‘inactive leases’, [National Marine Fisheries Service] permitting delays represent one example of the Administration’s de facto ban on new drilling – impeding domestic oil and gas investment, exploration, and production,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Biden.

A press release from Cruz’s office explained that the delays are “principally due to ‘three administration-made and admitted mistakes’ caused by mathematic errors in calculating the number of endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico in a 2021 Final Rule governing offshore oil and gas exploration based on those faulty calculations.”