Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Chevron says Biden has vilified energy industry, denies price-gouging

Energy giant Chevron told President Biden Tuesday his administration should offer “clarity and consistency” on energy policies and record gas-pump prices, and engage in “honest dialogue” about the importance of domestic oil production instead of trying to “vilify” the companies who produce it.

Chevron Chairman and CEO Mike Wirth was responding to an accusation made by Mr. Biden last week that corporate greed is in part to blame for sky-high prices at the pump and a threat from the president to invoke emergency wartime powers to force more gasoline production.

“Addressing this situation requires thoughtful action and a willingness to work together, not political rhetoric,” Mr. Wirth wrote in a letter.

He said that Chevron is putting an extra $18 billion this year — a more than 50% increase from last year — toward boosting production to meet a plunge in supply from the pandemic and the sanctions imposed over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“Notwithstanding these efforts, your administration has largely sought to criticize, and at times vilify, our industry. These actions are not beneficial to meeting the challenges we face and are not what the American people deserve,” Mr. Wirth said.

He called for “clarity and consistency on policy matters,” such as permitting regulations and drilling on federal lands. But “most importantly,” Mr. Wirth said the industry requires “an honest dialogue on how to best balance energy, economic and environmental objectives — one that recognizes our industry is a vital sector of the U.S. economy and is essential to our national security.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a response of its own last week, ExxonMobil rejected Mr. Biden’s assertions that Big Oil was bilking consumers and called for “clear and consistent policy” that supports the industry.

A Thursday meeting will take place at the White House between the country’s major oil companies, including Chevron and ExxonMobil, and senior administration officials, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Mr. Biden will not be in attendance. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre characterized the get-together as a “first step” toward combating high gas prices.

“Our goal is to make sure we have a sit-down conversation, and we come up with solutions that we’ve worked with the CEOs and figure out what else we can do,” she said.

Mr. Biden is also weighing whether to call on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents per gallon. But economists and energy analysts, including a former top economic advisor to President Obama, have warned such a move may have little impact on prices and could exacerbate the supply problems.

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