White House calls for more OPEC oil to level gasoline prices

By Jenny Leonard on 8/11/2021

(Bloomberg) --The Biden administration called on OPEC countries and U.S. regulators to do more to ensure a stable energy supply, with a specific focus on retail gasoline prices that President Joe Biden pledged to keep affordable.

“While OPEC+ recently agreed to production increases, these increases will not fully offset previous production cuts that OPEC+ imposed during the pandemic until well into 2022,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday. “At a critical moment in the global recovery, this is simply not enough.”

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese also asked Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to use all available tools -- including monitoring prices, reviewing merger-and-acquisition activity and investigating market manipulation -- to stem price fluctuations.

“During this summer driving season, there have been divergences between oil prices and the cost of gasoline at the pump. While many factors can affect gas prices, the President wants to ensure that consumers are not paying more for gas because of anti-competitive or other illegal practices,” Deese wrote.

Oil dropped suddenly on the news, first reported by CNBC.

Futures tumbled as much as 1.8% in New York after Sullivan said current plans to boost output weren’t sufficient. The world’s largest oil-consuming nation has seen gasoline prices firmly above $3 a gallon in recent months, putting pressure on drivers who are back on the road as pandemic restrictions ease.

The U.S. has urged OPEC+ in the past to increase supply, most recently in April when Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called her Saudi counterpart Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman to highlight the importance of “affordable energy.”

The 23-nation OPEC+ alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed in July to revive the rest of the production they halted during the pandemic in careful installments, of 400,000 barrels a day each month.

Biden’s economic agenda includes a promise to not raise taxes on middle-class Americans, including at the pump.

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