Granholm Urges US Producers to Hike Supply

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Jennifer Granholm
Evan Vucci/AP

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday called on US oil producers to increase their output, urging them to get “rig counts up,” as the Biden administration continues to fine tune its messaging while navigating the political perils of high fuel prices.

Oil producers have “some important tools” for alleviating pressure on fuel prices, Granholm told a meeting of the National Petroleum Council (NPC), whose membership includes executives from a wide swath of large oil and natural gas producers including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, BP America, TotalEnergies and ConocoPhillips.

“So I hope you'll hear me say that, please, take advantage of the leases that you have,” Granholm said. “Hire workers. Get your rig count up.”

Her remarks are in line with messaging from Biden and other White House officials that short-term oil and gas production is not inconsistent with working to accelerate the clean energy transition.

Granholm’s remarks also echo comments made last week at the World Petroleum Congress in Houston by Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk, who pointed to the Biden administration’s planned sale of strategic crude stocks.

Turk noted that companies have “about 200 fewer rigs and are employing about 151,000 fewer workers” than before the pandemic, and stressed that the administration is “not standing in the way of increasing domestic oil production.”

Setting the Table

Granholm struck a defensive tone during Tuesday's NPC meeting regarding the Biden administration’s federal leasing policy, pointing to 9,000 “unused” permits and more than 23 million “idle” federal acres under lease.

She also cited permitting data from the Department of the Interior showing that the Biden administration has so far averaged higher per-month approvals for drilling permits than during the Trump administration.

Granholm reiterated press reports from last week that the administration is not considering reinstating a ban on oil exports — a move that was already largely seen as a long shot.

In preliminary talks with NPC members last week, Granholm said producers emphasized that taking the threat of a ban off the table was important.

“We heard you loud and clear and we wanted to put that rumor to rest,” she said.

The White House also reiterated in a blog post on Tuesday that Biden has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate what he has called “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil and gas companies.”

In the post , the White House said the average domestic price of gasoline has fallen by over 30¢ per gallon since its most recent peak, but the drop is not yet fully reflected in retail prices at the pump, which as of Tuesday were still averaging about $3.32/gal, according to the American Automobile Association.

Tightrope Act

Advocating a boost in oil and gas output — first from Opec and now domestic producers — against a backdrop of inflation and high prices has put the Biden administration and its hefty clean energy agenda in an awkward spot.

Some industry executives have expressed frustration with what they have characterized as vague messaging from the White House that producers can and should easily ramp supply irrespective of the investment climate.

Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, told Argus Media during the recent World Petroleum Congress event in Houston that he “has not found a US chief executive that's had a call from the Biden administration to raise production. That includes us.”

Oil and gas executives have also pointed toward pressure from investors for producers to prioritize capital discipline and shareholder returns over near-term growth.

Policy and Regulation, Low-Carbon Policy, Oil Supply, Oil Prices, Gasoline
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