“Our people have raised concerns about the administration’s continued tone. We’ve asked for their tone to change,” American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers told CNN after the face-to-face meeting at Department of Energy headquarters between oil CEOs and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Sommers, who did not attend the meeting but was briefed by oil CEOs in attendance, said the industry had made a number of policy recommendations to the Biden administration to address high gasoline prices. The oil industry also urged President Joe Biden to personally get involved and meet with oil CEOs to address high prices.
“We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the President himself,” said Sommers, who along with Big Oil CEOs met with former President Donald Trump in early 2020 when oil prices were plummeting. “It’s something almost every president has done. This one doesn’t.”
No concrete actions or commitments were announced after Thursday’s meeting.
In a statement, the Department of Energy described the meeting as “productive” and expressed hope that it will be part of an “ongoing dialogue for more effective cooperation.”
Secretary Granholm urged industry to “bring supply online at lower prices,” reiterating that Biden stands ready to “act swiftly and decisively,” the Energy Department said in a statement after the meeting, which included executives from ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Valero, Phillips 66 and Marathon Petroleum.
Sommers told CNN the Biden administration appears open to some industry proposals, including abandoning the Jones Act to speed up shipments of gasoline and diesel from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast.
The Jones Act is a federal law aimed at protecting US shipbuilders by restricting shipping by foreign ships. In the past, this was dispensed with in the event of supply bottlenecks.
In a statement Thursday night, Ku’uhaku Park — president of the American Maritime Partnership — said, “The Jones Act is not a cost driver for increased gasoline prices because it accounts, on average, for less than a cent per gallon of the total cost of gasoline.”
Sommers said Thursday’s meeting was “a really constructive dialogue.”
The Energy Department said Granholm reminded oil CEOs that “their consumers, workers and communities are feeling the pain at the pump because of Putin’s price hike.”
“At a time when Putin is using energy as a weapon,” the Energy Department said, “oil companies must deliver solutions to ensure a secure and affordable supply.”
Beyond the Jones Act exemptions, Sommers said, oil CEOs are discussing other proposals with the Department of Energy, including allowing winter gasoline to be sold during the summer months and waiving ethanol blending requirements during the prolonged period of supply shortages.
The meeting comes days after Chevron CEO Mike Wirth accused Biden of trying to vilify oil and gas producers. Biden responded by saying, “He’s easily touchy,” adding, “I didn’t realize they were going to hurt her feelings so easily.”
Earlier this month, a White House official blew up “outrageous” oil profits, leaving the door open to a windfall profits tax for the industry. Biden himself called out the largest company in the industry, saying, “Exxon made more money than God last year.”
Sommers responded to CNN on Thursday, saying, “No one is going to invest in an industry that the government says will end in 2030.”
Although the industry has a “great relationship” with the Department of Energy and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Sommers indicated that the White House itself does not.
“It seems like there’s a disconnect between what we’re hearing from the department and what we’re hearing from the podium at the White House,” he said.