The White House’s top energy adviser has called the refusal of US shale investors to speed up drilling “un-American”, even as Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine is wreaking havoc on global oil and gas markets.
US oil groups have been under pressure from Wall Street to return record profits to investors this year, despite President Joe Biden’s calls to pump more oil to tame rampant inflation.
“I think the idea of financiers telling companies in the United States not to increase production and to buy back shares and increase dividends when profits are at their peak is outrageous,” said Amos Hochstein, President Biden’s international energy envoy. “This is not only un-American, but unfair to the American public.
“You want to pay dividends, pay dividends. You want to pay shareholders, pay shareholders. If you want to receive bonuses, do so. You can do all this and still invest more. We ask you to increase production and take advantage of the opportunity.”
Hochstein’s comments came days after the EU imposed an embargo on Russian oil imports by sea and a G7 price cap on the country’s oil in an attempt by western powers to limit Kremlin revenue and keep crude flowing to the global market.
Moscow has repeatedly promised not to sell oil to countries that comply with this restriction. On Friday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would “even think. . . about the possible reduction of production”.
Hochstein said the Kremlin remains a threat to the “highly volatile” oil market, noting that Russia has repeatedly weaponized energy, including cutting gas supplies to Germany this year.
“I think about it all the time,” he said, referring to Russia’s threat to cut off oil exports. “But that risk exists with or without a price cap.”
Oil prices have fluctuated wildly this year, rising after Russia’s invasion to $140 a barrel in March, prompting the White House to release crude held in emergency reserves to cool inflation.
Prices have fallen in recent days amid fears of a global recession, with international benchmark Brent settling at $76.10 a barrel on Friday.
But as the conflict between Putin and the West deepens, Hochstein believes there could be further turmoil in global energy, particularly in Europe’s gas market.
While an “unprecedented” effort by the U.S. and other LNG exporters will provide Europe with enough fuel for this winter, the loss of Russian pipeline imports means repeating the effort “until winter,” Hochstein warned.
Additional global LNG supplies won’t arrive until plants under construction in the US and Qatar come on line later this decade, a ‘mountain to climb’ [to build] There are more gas reserves for next year.”
“We are indeed preparing for and living in a step-by-step energy perspective in Europe and beyond. [way]Hochstein said.
The longer-term solution was not to invest in more natural gas supplies, but to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, former LNG chief Hochstein argued.
“We have to bring the demand to the peak [for hydrocarbons] and then narrow it down from there,” Hochstein said.
The Biden adviser’s comments will spark a backlash in the U.S. shale sector, which has complained about mixed signals from the White House calling for more fossil fuel production while talking about reducing demand and accelerating the transition away from oil and gas.
But Hochstein dismissed any contradiction, saying the U.S. “can do two things at the same time, making sure we have enough capability.” [oil] ensuring a strong global economy while accelerating the energy transition.”
Oil will remain good for the economy for several years, he said, adding that when U.S. oil prices fall to around $70 a barrel, the Biden administration will become a major buyer of crude to replenish the federal stockpile.
Hochstein also criticized ExxonMobil’s $50 billion share buyback scheme announced last week — which recently paid CEO Darren Woods said returned some of the money “directly to the American people.”
“The only thing worse than announcing a share buyback is telling the American people how you’re giving back your earnings,” Hochstein said. “If you want to give back to the American people, invest in America, in its workers. . . increase production, [make] “The United States is less dependent on other countries.”