Biden summons Big Oil to meet on gasoline prices

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NEW YORK (AFP) - The Biden administration has called oil giants to Washington Thursday (June 23) to discuss what can be done to address runaway gasoline prices that are tanking the president's approval rating.

Biden has blasted the industry over skyrocketing profits and its reticence to boost capital spending, throwing recent barbs at giants like ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm promised a more conciliatory tack on Wednesday. "We're going in in good faith" Granholm told a White House briefing. "We're going into this to have an earnest conversation with them."

But the oil industry signaled its own wariness towards Biden, who campaigned on the need for low-carbon solutions and canceled the Keystone Pipeline in his first day in office.

Alluding to Biden's upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, the American Petroleum Institute and other groups wrote to Biden early Thursday to "invite" the US president to tour domestic sites such as the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

"American-made energy solutions are beneath our feet, and we urge you to reconsider the immense potential of US oil and natural gas resources - that are the envy of the world - to benefit American families, the US economy and our national security," the groups said in a letter Thursday.

Gasoline prices currently stand at US$4.94 (S$6.90) a gallon, a bit below all-time highs, but up more than 60 per cent from the year-ago level and a key factor in the "intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing," Biden said in June 14 letters to oil giants.

The surge follows Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which exacerbated an already-tight energy supply situation, sending crude oil prices sharply higher.

The rise in prices also reflects the diminished state of refining capacity after the industry mothballed some plants during Covid-19 lockdowns, and did not reopen the facilities amid uncertain long-term growth prospects with the buildup of electric vehicles.

Biden's policy thus far has centered on a huge increase in crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

On Wednesday, the US president proposed a temporary fuel tax break, a measure that received a lukewarm reception on Capitol Hill.

"I am prepared to use all tools at my disposal... to address barriers to providing Americans affordable, secure energy supply," Biden said in the June 14 letter that called on ...

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