As House interrogates energy execs over high prices, lawmaker points out previous hearing when production was discouraged
Historically high gas prices are largely a result of Biden administration policies, not simply Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other GOP senators argued at a press conference April 6.
“The problem is that the oil is in Louisiana and Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas and North Dakota and Alaska and in many other states, but the dipsticks are in Washington, D.C.,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).
The lawmakers held their press conference at the same time as a House hearing, “Gouged at the Gas Pump: Big Oil and America’s Pain at the Pump,” in which executives at ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and other energy companies underwent a grilling as they tried to defend their industry—an event Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R-Alaska) likened to a show trial.
He said that a House hearing six months earlier had seen representatives go so far as to suggest that oil and gas companies produce less—a stark contrast to today’s event, during which House Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone claimed that those firms’ profits “are coming at the expense of the American people, who need you to dramatically increase production, not shareholder wealth.”
Sullivan encouraged reporters to check the transcripts of the previous hearing.
Indeed, a review of the meeting’s transcript by The Epoch Times revealed an exchange between Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and several energy company CEOs, in which Khanna interrogated Chevron CEO Michael K. Wirth over the fact that Chevron planned to increase its production, in contrast to BP and Shell.
“Are you embarrassed as an American company that your production is going up while the European counterparts are going down?” Khanna asked Wirth.
“Congressman, as we have already heard, demand for energy is going up in the world,” Wirth responded.
“OK. You are not embarrassed,” retorted Khanna, who then asked Wirth whether “science says” production must go down every year.
Khanna questioned ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods along similar lines.
“Could you commit to lowering production, or not?” he asked at the time.
“We are going to lower emissions, which is the source of the issue that we are trying to address,” Woods responded.
“I take that as a ‘no,’” Khanna said.
‘I Did That!’
At the April 6 press conference, Sullivan held up a photo of a gas gauge reading $109.44, taken, he said, when he filled his gas tank from a quarter-full to full. Next to the gauge was a Biden “I Did That!” sticker.
“Nobody’s being fooled,” he said. “This is what literally was on the pump in my home state.”
Lankford and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) criticized the Biden administration for its latest actions decreasing the amount of oil in the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
On March 31, Biden announced the SPR would release an average of 1 million barrels a day over 180 days. The effort, which the administration described as countering “Putin’s Price Hike,” marks the largest-ever release from the SPR.
“It doesn’t actually produce one more barrel of American oil,” Barrasso said.
“Some people call this release a gimmick—I’d say it’s much more dangerous than that. And the reason is because he’s drawing this emergency supply down to a level .. we haven’t been down that low since 1984.”
The SPR held 580 million barrels of oil as of Feb. 25, 2022, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). That was the level prior to the announcement of a 30-million-barrel SPR release on March 1.
In 1984, the SPR held between 384.4 and 450.5 million barrels.
The idea of a gas tax holiday drew criticism from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Under consideration by the Senate, it has already been implemented by Georgia, Maryland, and Connecticut at the state level.
“That denies us access to the funds that are necessary to build roads and bridges,” he said.
Lankford took issue with the Biden administration’s frequent assertion that the oil industry has 9,000 unused leases with which they can step up production, saying that it misrepresented the realities of energy production.
“Most of those are checkerboards, where they lease just one section and test it out. But they’re not really going to do production in that area until they have all the leases around it—he [Biden] knows the game on that,” Lankford said.
Cruz spoke even more forcefully, arguing that high gas prices were the intended result of Biden’s promises on the campaign trail, which included no more drilling on federal lands or waters.
While the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) did hold a federal offshore lease sale in November, a federal judge threw out that sale in January.
“Biden gets climate win with court loss on Gulf of Mexico oil leases,” read the headline of one Reuters analysis of the decision.
Cruz also highlighted the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) new regulations mandating that registered companies disclose climate-related risks and, in most cases, upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is Biden’s fault, and the American people are hurting every day at the gas pump,” he said.
One reporter asked whether laying the blame at Biden’s feet exaggerated his role, given the effects of the pandemic recovery on the oil supply and labor.
“There’s no doubt there are a lot of factors that affect gas prices, and many of those factors have been exacerbated by the Biden administration,” Cruz said, citing the impact of vaccine mandates on the truck drivers and longshoremen.