By Tom Ozimek
A White House official said on Tuesday that U.S. oil and gas companies can and should boost domestic production while dismissing the idea that the Biden administration’s energy policies were preventing companies from doing so.
Bharat Ramamurti, who serves as deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, told Bloomberg in an interview that crude oil prices are high and “if folks want to produce more, they can and they should.”
Ramamurti was responding to a question about U.S. energy production and criticism that President Joe Biden’s clean energy policies have squeezed domestic drilling and contributed to soaring gasoline prices.
“As of the beginning of this year, there were 9,000 permits for oil and gas drilling that were currently going unused. So, the idea that the federal government is restricting the ability of oil and gas companies to produce more I think is incorrect,” Ramamurti said, pushing back on the notion that Biden’s policies were discouraging domestic energy production.
Shortly after taking office, Biden put a freeze on new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters, axed the Keystone XL Pipeline project, and has pushed to de-carbonize the U.S. economy, citing the imperative to fight climate change.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a frequent critic of Biden’s energy policies, has called for new drilling leases and resumption of the Keystone pipeline, recommendations that White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently dismissed as a “misdiagnosis of what needs to happen” to curb high oil prices.
The White House has largely focused on urging OPEC+ to ramp up production to cool prices, a strategy that has thus far borne little fruit. Another tactic has been coordinated releases of crude from strategic stockpiles.
All 31 member countries of the International Energy Agency on Tuesday agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves. But the move failed to reassure markets, and prices rose after the announcement.
Surging energy prices, driven higher by fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would lead to supply disruptions, are fueling calls to ramp up domestic oil and gas production, both to reinforce American energy independence and to support European allies.
Recent polling carried out on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry lobby, showed that 84 percent of U.S. voters believe that producing natural gas and oil in the United States would boost security in America and for its allies around the world.
“Due to America’s energy resurgence over the past fifteen years, the United States is well-positioned to alleviate the growing energy crisis in Europe,” Mike Sommers, President and CEO of API, wrote in a recent letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm (pdf).
Europe is highly dependent on Russian energy, with Russia supplying around 27 percent of the European Union’s crude oil, 41 percent of its natural gas, and 46.7 percent of its coal.
“Recent developments illustrate the importance of the government working collaboratively with industry to ensure U.S. energy and economic security, as well as that of our allies in Europe and around the world,” he added, referring to the war in Ukraine.
Sommers called on the Biden administration to urgently implement a series of policy recommendations, including “clearly” committing to the continued export of crude oil, natural gas, and refined petroleum products, “swiftly” approving all LNG applications, and accelerating the issuance of lease sales.
Oil prices surged on Wednesday as supply disruptions mounted following sanctions on Russian banks amid the intensifying Ukraine conflict.
Russian oil exports account for approximately 8 percent of global supply.