White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre fumbled Wednesday while trying to explain what President Joe Biden is doing to lower gas prices.
OPEC+, which includes the 15 OPEC members and the consortium’s Russian-led allies voted Wednesday to slash oil production by two million barrels per day despite pleas from the White House to pump more oil, according to Bloomberg. Gas prices are now expected to rise.
A reporter questioned Jean-Pierre about what the White House will do to tamp down costs.
“You said yesterday that we’re not going to be considering new releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” a reporter asked. “So what is the White House planning to do to keep gas prices from spiking?”
“So as you know, we’ve been working on this for months. The president has taken historic steps to keep gas prices down,” Jean-Pierre said. “So here’s, you know, so if he, so gas prices, we have – we’ve seen increase in the west and the midwest in recent weeks because of specific refinery issues. We’ve called on those refiners to operate safely but quickly come back online and we’ve been clear and said again today that US energy companies must keep bringing pump prices down by closing this historic, historically large gap between wholesale and resale gas prices.”
CNN reported the Biden Administration was “panicking” over OPEC’s decision as gas prices may continue to climb and hurt Democrats’ chances in the upcoming midterms. (RELATED: White House Pivots On Key Oil Issue In Just About 24 Hours)
Biden ordered the release of 1 million barrels of crude oil a day in March to help lower gas and oil prices. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been depleted from 640 million barrels to fewer than 450 million barrels, its lowest level since 1984, according to Forbes.
The White House aggressively lobbied Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other OPEC members to vote against cutting oil production. OPEC and its partners did agree in June to boost production slightly though members said they were far behind on their oil production targets and were in their weakest position in recent years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Biden then penned a letter to seven major oil companies in June insisting they increase oil refining operations. Industry leaders shot back at the White House, saying energy companies are refining at an increasingly high rate and government policies have injected uncertainty into the industry.
“Refiners do not make multi-billion-dollar investments based on short-term returns,” the American Petroleum Reserve and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers wrote in a letter to Biden. “They look at long-term supply and demand fundamentals and make investments as appropriate. To that end, following on your campaign promise to ‘end fossil fuel,’ consider just some of the policy and investment signals being sent by various federal agencies and allied state governments to the market about our refining industry.”
“The timing and reasons for shutdowns of several refineries, including the Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Shell Convent refineries, were primarily due to lack of buyers willing to continue operating the facilities as petroleum refineries given growing rhetoric about the long-term viability of the industry,” they added in the letter.