The White House on Wednesday shifted from blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to oil companies for record-high gas prices, calling on them to “be patriots” and do more to lower prices.
“We see it as a patriotic duty,” White House Secretary Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Wednesday press conference. “We are calling on them to do the right thing, to be patriots here, and not use the war as an excuse” to price gouge.
The remarks came after President Biden on Wednesday called on U.S. oil refiners to produce more gasoline and diesel, saying their profits have tripled during a time of war between Russia and Ukraine as Americans struggle with record-high prices at the pump.
“The crunch that families are facing deserves immediate action,” Biden wrote in a letter to seven oil refiners. “Your companies need to work with my Administration to bring forward concrete, near-term solutions that address the crisis.”
Gas prices nationwide are averaging roughly $5 a gallon, an economic burden for many Americans and a political threat for the president’s fellow Democrats going into the midterm elections.
Meanwhile, the government reported on Friday that consumer prices had jumped 8.6% from a year ago, the worst increase in more than 40 years.
Oil producers have chastised the Biden administration for pushing a “misguided” green agenda while ignoring its immediate effects on the economy. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry, said in response to Biden’s letter that its policy agenda “has compounded inflationary pressures and added headwinds to companies’ daily efforts to meet growing energy needs while reducing emissions.”
The president has harshly criticized what he views as profiteering amid a global crisis that could potentially push Europe and other parts of the world into a recession, saying after a speech Friday that ExxonMobil “made more money than God this year.”
ExxonMobil responded by saying it has already informed the administration of its planned investments to increase oil production and refining capacity.
Biden has long exhibited hostility to the fossil fuel industry. During the 2019 Democratic presidential primary debates, Biden made clear he was willing to sacrifice economic growth – potentially displacing hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers – in order to combat climate change.
In the December 2019 debate, moderator Tim Alberta asked Biden: “Three consecutive American presidents have enjoyed stints of explosive economic growth due to a boom in oil and natural gas production. As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?”
“The answer is yes,” Biden replied.
During his first hours in office, Biden moved to curb US energy production on federal lands and canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. That pipeline would have carried 870,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. As gas prices have surged past record highs, Biden has taken to releasing a million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. His energy czar, former Sen. John Kerry, recently insisted that we do not need to drill for more oil and gas.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Bryan Preston contributed to this report.