President Biden claimed Thursday that he doesn’t regret his July trip to Saudi Arabia after the Riyadh-led OPEC+ cartel of oil exporters cut production — and refused to rule out turning to Venezuela’s far-left, Russia-allied leaders next for help.
“The trip was not, essentially not for oil,” the president told reporters while leaving the White House for a trip to New York. “The trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and rationalization of positions. But it is a disappointment and it says that there are problems.”
However, Biden’s meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — which included a now-infamous fist bump in front of the global media — were widely understood to be an effort to lower record-high gas prices, which topped $5 per gallon on average in the US in June.
Biden added in his first public comments about the OPEC+ decision that his reaction was “disappointment and we’re looking at what alternatives we may have.”
The president proceeded to all-but-confirm reports that his administration was looking next to Caracas to prevent US gas prices from increasing ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
“There’s a lot of alternatives [to Saudi oil],” Biden said. “We haven’t made up our mind yet.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the White House is considering undoing some sanctions on Venezuela to allow Chevron to pump more oil in the country, possibly in exchange for socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro agreeing to talks with the country’s political opposition.
Republicans ridiculed Biden for seeking oil from some of the world’s most notorious regimes after spending his first year in office trying to reduce oil drilling on federal lands and spiking oil pipeline projects.
“There is another way: Instead of empowering despotic regimes around the world, why don’t we pump more at home to take care of our energy security needs?” tweeted Trump administration State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
“President Biden would rather enrich a murderous dictator than support drilling in America,” wrote Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabian Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said Wednesday it would collectively cut production by 2 million barrels per day — or about 2% — beginning in November, despite Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia to woo the monarch known as MBS.
Hours after the OPEC+ announcement, Biden said he would release 10 million barrels from the US strategic reserve next month to offset the cuts — adding to the 180 million barrels he ordered released from April through September in an attempt to lower prices after the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine caused energy costs to rise.
Biden’s trip to Jeddah rehabilitated the crown prince after the president tried to sideline the country’s de facto ruler over the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which the US intelligence community says bin Salman ordered.
An OPEC+ memo outlining cuts shows that Saudi Arabia and Russia, both members of the 24-nation group, will make the biggest individual cuts to oil production of 19 countries doing so, lowering output by 526,000 monthly barrels apiece.
The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in the United States stood at $3.87 Thursday, according to AAA data. Although the average price is down significantly from June, the cost has creeped up 8.5 cents over the past week.
High gas prices are bad politically for whoever holds power and the surge in prices earlier this year contributed to plunging approval ratings for Biden, which have since recovered slightly. Other US goods also are more costly amid the highest annual inflation since 1981 — with overall prices up about 8.3% in August.
Critics note Biden last year attempted to impose a moratorium on new oil drilling on public lands and suspended drilling permits at Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also spiked the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada into the US.
As gas prices hammered his popularity, Biden sought to turn the tables on oil companies, slamming them for raking in “well above normal” prices. Biden urged the firms to drill more on existing leases and to boost refining capacity while also urging individual gas stations to cut prices unilaterally at the pump.