Biden calls Chevron CEO ‘mildly sensitive’ in tangle with oil executive

President Biden called the chief executive of oil giant Chevron “mildly sensitive” after he wrote a letter to the president accusing the Biden administration of vilifying the oil and gas industry over high prices.

Biden made the comments in an exchange with reporters Tuesday afternoon when asked about the letter penned by Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, who, along with other oil executives, is scheduled to meet with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm later this week.

“He’s mildly sensitive,” Biden said. “I didn’t know they’d get their feelings hurt that quickly. Look, we need more refining capacity. This idea that they don’t have oil to drill and to bring up is simply not true.”

“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,” Biden continued. “They’re both within realm of possibility.”

Wirth sent a letter to Biden earlier Tuesday arguing that Chevron was doing its part to increase oil and gas production amid a period of high demand. He also argued that the industry needs more support from the administration in order to boost energy security long term.

“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,” Wirth wrote to Biden. “Notwithstanding these efforts, your Administration has largely 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.”

The letter was a direct response to one that Biden penned to Chevron and six other oil refining companies last week urging them to produce more in order to lower the price at the pump, calling their record profits unacceptable. Some Democrats have praised Biden for the tougher rhetoric on the oil industry.

The latest exchange of words comes days before Wirth and other oil executives are slated to sit down with officials from the Energy Department on Thursday. Biden is not expected to take part in that meeting.

Biden has limited options to ease the steep gas prices, which average about $5 per gallon across the country. The price of gas has been elevated for some time amid high inflation and has been exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the related disruptions to global energy markets.

Biden is considering calling on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax as a way to provide some relief to consumers in the interim.

While some in touch with the White House have expressed support for such a move, others have argued it would potentially contribute to inflation and hamper infrastructure projects. The tax revenue helps fund road infrastructure projects, though Biden dismissed the notion that it would have a major impact on Tuesday.

“It will have some impact, but it’s not going to have an impact on major road construction and major repairs,” he said in an exchange with reporters, adding that he would make a decision on the gas tax holiday by week’s end.

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