Oil CEOs will visit White House for emergency meeting

Source: By Scott Waldman, E&E News • Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2022

President Joe Biden speaking with members of the press during a walk Monday in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

President Joe Biden speaking with members of the press during a walk Monday in Rehoboth Beach, Del. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Responding to President Joe Biden’s call for an explanation of soaring petroleum prices and surging industry profits, oil and gas executives will visit the White House tomorrow for an emergency meeting with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Granholm and White House officials will meet with executives from BP PLC, Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66 Co., the companies confirmed to E&E News. Other oil majors, including Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp., didn’t confirm their attendance.

“We look forward to engaging with the Administration,” a Phillips 66 spokesperson said in a statement yesterday. “We are a company of problem-solvers, and only good things can come from working collaboratively to address near- and long-term issues facing our country and energy consumers.”

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden won’t attend the meeting, but is keenly interested in its outcome. She said seven CEOs will attend, but she did not name them.

“They’re going to sit down and have a conversation, the second step is coming up with a solution and ideas,” she said.

Facing political heat for gasoline prices averaging around $5 a gallon nationwide, Biden has sought to partly shift blame to oil and gas companies, which he said are sitting on 9,000 unused drilling leases on public lands and also cutting refining.

Biden told reporters Monday that he wants the oil and gas companies to justify profits of $35 billion in the first quarter, a time when gas prices have skyrocketed to historic levels due to supply constraints, increased demand and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“They don’t want to get caught in a position where eventually they’re going to move to alternative energy, renewable energy, and they don’t want to get stuck,” Biden said. “Well, guess what? There’s a logical transition to be made here. And I want an explanation from them as to why they aren’t refining more oil.”

Biden is facing headwinds from two opposing directions. On the one hand, high gasoline prices are costing American drivers hundreds of dollars more each year and helping fuel inflation. On the other, the administration’s climate policy is flagging amid congressional gridlock. Later this week, Biden will embark on a trip to Europe and the Middle East where he will ask Group of Seven countries to do more on climate, and then sit down with Saudi leaders to ensure more oil keeps flowing.

The purpose of tomorrow’ emergency White House meeting is to discuss steps that energy companies can take to increase refining capacity and cut gas prices, according to DOE. Administration officials want the companies to bring “actionable, near-term solutions,” the department said.

Frank Maisano, a senior principal at law and lobbying firm Bracewell LLP, which represents clients in various energy sectors, said companies are waiting for the administration to stop putting roadblocks in front of production and transportation of oil and gas.

“The administration has to come to grips with a couple of the complexities of the marketplace, and one of those complexities is the mixed signals they’re sending on everything from leases to pipelines to production to OPEC,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest challenge and discussions to have.”

Chevron Chair and CEO Mike Wirth sent a letter to Biden yesterday, saying his company would attend the meeting and strongly encouraged the White House to send senior advisers as well. He pointed to the administration’s “whole of government” approach to climate policy and suggested a similar effort was needed for energy security.

Wirth said oil and gas companies needed “clarity and consistency” to leasing and permitting on federal lands; regulations that consider costs and benefits; and the ability to build critical infrastructure, such as pipelines and refineries.

“Your Administration has largely sought to criticize, and at times vilify, our industry,” Wirth wrote. “These actions are not beneficial to meeting the challenges we face and are not what the American people deserve.”

Not long after Chevron released the letter, Biden criticized the company.

“I didn’t know they’d get their feelings hurt that quickly,” he told reporters at a White House event yesterday afternoon.

He added, “We ought to be able to work something out whereby they’re able to increase refining capacity and still not give up on transitioning to renewable energy. They’re both within the realm of possibility.”

Reporters Carlos Anchondo and Mike Lee contributed.