Biden called Chevron’s boss “sensitive” after criticism of fuel prices

Joe Biden hit Chevron CEO Mike Wirth on Tuesday, calling him “sensitive” after criticizing the US administration’s energy policy as high fuel prices deepen tensions between the White House and the local oil industry.

The exchange came ahead of a meeting scheduled for Thursday between Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and senior industry leaders, including Wirth, whose company is the second-largest oil and gas producer in the United States.

The US president’s rhetoric about oil companies has intensified in recent weeks. Earlier this month, he criticized ExxonMobil for “doing more than God this year” and told the oil supermayer to “start investing more”. Last week, he criticized the industry’s increased profits as “unacceptable” during the “time of war“While fighting is raging in Ukraine.

Rising pump fuel prices have become a political vulnerability for Biden, as gas station signs show the highest inflation in the United States in 40 years. The average national price of gasoline was $ 4.97 a gallon on Tuesday, according to the American Automobile Association.

On Tuesday, Wirth sent a letter to Biden saying that increasing fuel supplies and lowering prices would require a “change of approach” from the administration. He rebuked the administration for seeking to “criticize and sometimes denigrate our industry.”

Asked about the letter during a White House event, Biden called Wirth “slightly sensitive”, saying he “did not know they would hurt their feelings so quickly”. He called on the industry to increase fuel supplies.

In his letter President Wirth said the industry could do little to bring down pump prices immediately, indicating that this week’s meeting is unlikely to bring relief to American drivers.

“There are no easy solutions or short-term answers to the global imbalances in supply and demand, aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Wirth wrote in his letter.

Among other measures to tackle high fuel prices, the president said this week that he was considering a vacation on the federal 18.4-cent-gallon gasoline tax to try to cut prices, although such a move would require congressional action. .

Biden also said he could use emergency powers to add oil refining capacity, while criticizing the industry for closing refineries in recent years. Profit margins for gasoline and diesel refining have reached record levels.

Refining managers say they are already producing at or near their maximum capacity, but are struggling to keep up with demand.

Asked about Biden’s comments, Chevron said: “Mike looks forward to meeting with Secretary Granholm on Thursday and looks forward to a constructive conversation on action to address short-term problems and long-term stability in energy markets.”

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