Joe Biden traded jibes with Chevron’s chief executive, calling the major oil boss “sensitive” after he’d penned a letter to the president that accused his administration of vilifying the energy industry as the country grapples with soaring fuel prices.
“He’s mildly sensitive,” Mr Biden said Tuesday, then quipped: “I didn’t know they’d get their feelings hurt that quickly.”
“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,” the president, pivoting his response to address his administration’s recent critiques of the industry, who he has slammed for raking in “more money than God” rather than increasing oil production to help offset the well-then-above average energy prices.
Average gas prices across the country hit $5 a gallon, largely a by-product of the economy bouncing back from a more than two-year pandemic and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
The remarks from the president arrived just a few days before Chevron CEO Michael Wirth and other industry executives are scheduled to meet with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Mr Wirth, who on the same day that Mr Biden made his pointed remarks penned a letter to the president, has argued that the US leader has unfairly characterised the industry and has specifically rebutted the claims that Chevron is not doing their part to increase oil and gas production in a period of high demand.
“Chevron and its 37,000 employees work every day to help provide the world with the energy it demands and to lift up the lives of billions of people who rely on these supplies,” Mr Wirth wrote to Biden, adding that his administration has “sought to criticize, and at times vilify, our industry”.
“These actions are not beneficial to meeting the challenges we face and are not what the American people deserve.”
Mr Wirth’s swipe at the commander-in-chief came in response to a previous piece of correspondence, sent last week from Mr Biden and addressed to Chevron and six other major oil companies in which he asked the chief executives to increase production to relieve the burden on Americans emptying out their wallets at the pump.
On Wednesday, the US president is expected to call on Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes for three months, a move that is intended to help ease the financial pressures the country is facing as they struggle to fill up and also reveals the political toxicity of high gas prices in an election year.
A similar call is expected to be made by the Democratic president to states, where he will ask that they suspend their own gas taxes, according to administration officials who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
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