U.S. energy chief to discuss record pump prices with refiners next week

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has called an emergency meeting with refinery executives for next week, a department spokesman said on Thursday, amid tensions between the Biden administration and Big Oil are mounting over soaring gas prices.

The planned talks come as President Joe Biden, under pressure from record gasoline prices with inflation a major issue for voters ahead of the hotly contested November election, demanded that oil refining companies explain why they don’t put more fuel on the market while they reap windfall profits. Read more

The meeting “will discuss actions companies can take to increase refining capacity and production and reduce near-term gas prices,” an Energy Department spokesperson said Thursday. Sources said earlier that the reunion would take place on June 23. The ministry does not immediately have the exact date.

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Energy companies have been making windfall profits since Russia invaded Ukraine, as punitive US sanctions on Moscow add to a squeeze on global supply, pushing crude prices to around $120 a day. barrel and US gasoline prices at record highs of over $5 a gallon.

Biden sent a letter Wednesday to company executives including Marathon Petroleum Corp (MPC.N), Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) and Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), saying he had ordered Granholm to hold the meeting.

“As the President noted in his letter, he also stands ready to use all reasonable tools and authorities, where appropriate, to help increase capacity and production and reduce gasoline prices,” he said. said the department spokesperson.

Major U.S. oil industry trade groups pushed back in a letter to Biden on Wednesday, pointing out that the country’s oil refineries are already operating near capacity — currently at 94% capacity.

“Any suggestion that U.S. refiners are not doing their part to bring stability to the market is false,” said Chet Thompson, the head of U.S. fuel and petrochemicals makers.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the administration wanted to hear ideas from energy companies, saying, “Maybe there’s a way to help them achieve this. ability”.

His comments were more sympathetic than Biden’s remarks last week when he said “Exxon made more money than God this year.” [nL1N2XX1VP]

The White House, concerned about voter anger ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections with Democrats in control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, has tried to rein in energy inflation by releasing record amounts of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and waiving certain anti-smog regulations for summer gasoline blends.

The administration could take additional steps to try to lower prices, such as using the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to restart idle refining capacity or granting waivers to the Jones Act, a law that requires ships flying the US flag to transport oil between US ports. .

Biden’s letter to refiners also said Granholm would discuss how to handle high oil prices with the National Petroleum Council, a privately-funded panel of energy experts that makes recommendations to the energy secretary. and the executive.

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Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Steve Holland; written by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Evans, Marguerita Choy and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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