Executives Claim Biden Keeps Gasoline Prices High While Putting Shareholders Before Public, New Public Citizen Report Finds
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Biden Administration begins releasing one million barrels of oil each day from the strategic petroleum reserve to provide drivers relief at the gas pump, a new report released today by Public Citizen shows that as gasoline prices remain high, oil executives are telling shareholders that they plan to keep production levels down with the aim of generating massive profits.
“Oil and gas companies lost a ton of money between 2010 and 2020, mainly by borrowing way too much to fund an expansion of drilling using expensive oil and gas fracking technology,” said Alan Zibel, fossil fuels research director at Public Citizen and author of the report. “The result was unsustainable overproduction and massive losses when oil prices plunged, as they did two years ago at the start of the pandemic. Now the industry is keeping production down and making consumers pay.”
While oil and gas executives and lobbyists have been appearing on Capitol Hill to direct blame at the Biden administration for the recent surge in oil prices, oil executives are more straightforward behind the scenes. In investor calls, numerous executives have emphasized that shareholder profits, rather than expanding domestic production is their top goal. Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas published a survey that revealed nearly 60 percent of executives from 132 oil and gas companies found that investor pressure to keep profits high is the main reason oil producers are restraining growth.
While the Biden administration has indeed tried to slow new oil and gas leasing of federal lands and waters, taking into account the existential threat of climate change, drilling on federal lands under existing leases has continued under Biden at a high level. According to federal data analyzed by Public Citizen, the number of drilling permits issued on federal lands last year exceeded three out of four years of the Trump administration, except for 2020, when the industry was rushing to submit permit applications.
The report comes as Democrats on Capitol Hill push for a windfall profits tax on oil and gas firms aimed at curbing profiteering by oil companies.
“Big Oil executives are reaping windfall profits and driving inflation, pumping up profits while accelerating the climate crisis,” said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. “Republican lawmakers and oil industry allies continue to falsely claim that the Biden administration’s ‘hostile rhetoric’ toward the oil and gas industry is stifling investment in the domestic oil industry. The industry’s exaggerated claims and scare tactics are designed to keep the world hooked on fossil fuels that have so devastated our planet. The rational response to this crisis moment is a windfall profits tax coupled with a major investment to shift the country – and the world – away from reliance on fossil fuels..”