President Biden on Thursday skipped his administration’s summit with oil company executives amid record gas prices and instead made a surprise visit to a White House gathering of wind-industry leaders.
“When I think environment, I think jobs,” Biden told a group that included five wind-industry CEOs gathered in the White House Roosevelt Room.
“We’re about to build a better America,” Biden said at the meeting, which included Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Govs. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) and John Carney (D-Del.)
The president’s drop-in visit wasn’t on his daily schedule and occurred shortly after a closed-doors Granholm meeting with major oil refiners to discuss how to address a surge in prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The average price of gallon of regular gas is about $5, according to AAA.
In 2021, wind power comprised just 3.3% of US electricity production, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
CEOs at the wind-power meeting with Biden included Liz Burdock of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, David Hardy of Ørsted Offshore North America, Robert Blue of Dominion Energy, Jeffrey Grybowski of US Wind and Lars Pedersen of Vineyard Offshore.
Dominion Energy, based in Virginia, has a broad portfolio of electricity sources, including nuclear, coal and natural gas.
Oil-industry executives, meanwhile, said they were encouraged by their meeting with Granholm.
“Secretary Granholm’s meeting with American refiners today was a constructive discussion about ways to address rising energy costs and create more certainty for global energy markets, a joint oil-industry statement said afterward.
The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers went on, “While these challenges and their causes are complex—from Russia’s war in Ukraine to market imbalances leftover from COVID—productive outcomes today should send a positive signal to the market that the U.S. is committed to long-term investment in a strong U.S. refining industry and aligning policies to reflect that commitment.”
Biden told reporters on Monday that he would not meet with the oil industry leaders, even though he’s attempted to blame them for high prices. The president has alleged that the industry isn’t drilling or refining enough and accused them of profiteering, sparking a war of words.
Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, who leads the country’s second-largest oil company, said Thursday, “Today’s meeting was a constructive conversation about addressing both near-term issues and the longer-term stability of energy markets.” Wirth on Tuesday wrote in an open letter that data contradict Biden’s claims regarding the industry not drilling or refining enough.
“In 2021, Chevron produced the highest volume of oil and gas in our 143-year history. In the first quarter of 2022, our U.S. production was 1.2 million barrels per day, up 109,000 barrels per day from the same quarter a year earlier,” Wirth wrote.
“In the Permian Basin [centered in West Texas] alone, we expect production to approach 750,000 barrels per day by the end of the year, an increase of more than 15 percent from 2021,” Wirth added.
“And Chevron’s U.S. refinery input grew to 915,000 barrels per day on average in the first quarter of this year from 881,000 in the same quarter last year.”
Biden responded Tuesday by mocking Wirth as “mildly sensitive.”
“We need more refining capacity. This idea that they don’t have oil to drill and to bring up is simply not true,” Biden said Tuesday, responding to Wirth. “We ought to be able to work something out whereby they’re able to increase refining capacity and still not give up on transitioning to renewable energy.”
Chevron reported a profit of $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022 — quadruple its profits of $1.7 billion from the first quarter of 2021 — as global oil prices increased.
High gas prices are contributing to the worst inflation since 1981, though Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that “inflation was high before — certainly before the war in Ukraine broke out.”
Biden on Wednesday appealed to gas station owners to unilaterally lower prices at the pump. About 60% of US pumping stations are owned by a person or family that operates just one location.
Republicans say Biden contributed to the gas-price crisis by seeking to impose a moratorium last year on new oil drilling on public lands and by spiking new oil pipeline projects, including the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.
Biden on Wednesday asked Congress to temporarily waive the federal gas tax of 18.3 cents per gallon. He previously ordered the release of a million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and allowed a higher proportion of ethanol in gas over the summer, but neither step lowered prices.