President Biden told reporters in Saudi Arabia Friday that gas prices are likely to come down in ‘the next couple of weeks” after he discussed oil production with killer crown prince Mohammed bin Salman — despite claiming 15 days ago that the issue had nothing to do with his visit.
Biden mentioned energy prominently while describing a private meeting with bin Salman — as high pump prices and the worst inflation in 41 years have sent the president’s approval rating as low as 33%.
“We had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies to support global economic growth. And that will begin shortly,” Biden said after talks with the 36-year-old prince, who is commonly known by his initials MBS.
“I’m doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen,” the president went on. “The Saudis share that urgency and based on our discussions today, I expect we will see further steps in the coming weeks.”
When asked how long until Americans would see gas prices ease, Biden said, “I suspect you won’t see that for another couple weeks. And we’ll see more when we see gas stations start to lower their prices consistent with what they’re paying for the oil.”
US gas prices hit record highs of more than $5 per gallon on average in mid-June and currently stand at about $4.58 — up from $3.12 one year ago, according to AAA data.
Despite Friday’s happy talk, Biden previously said that he would not ask Saudi Arabia to produce more oil as he mended relations with MBS after previously attempting to sideline the de facto Saudi ruler over the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
NBC News reported earlier Friday that it took “several months” for Biden to be persuaded to make the trip to Saudi Arabia after Riyadh demanded an in-person visit to calm the storm caused by Biden vowing to make the country a “pariah” during a 2019 Democratic primary debate.
“Do you expect to ask the crown prince or the king to increase oil production?” a journalist asked Biden during a June 30 press conference in Madrid, Spain following a NATO summit.
“Well, first of all, that’s not the purpose of the trip … I’m not even sure; I guess I will see the king and the crown prince, but that’s not the meeting I’m going to,” Biden answered.
The reporter followed up: “But if you were to see the crown prince or the king, would you ask them to increase oil production?”
“No, I’m not going to ask them,” Biden said. “I’m going to ask — there’s all the Gulf States are meeting. I’ve indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production, generically — not to the Saudis particularly. And I think we’re going to — I hope we see them, in their own interest, concluding that makes sense to do.”
Oil prices soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 after creeping higher throughout 2021 as COVID-19 social and business restrictions eased. But Republicans slammed Biden for discouraging domestic production, saying he made the problem worse.
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.
Last month, the president skipped a meeting between members of his administration and leaders of the largest US oil companies — despite asking them to drill and refine more oil to reduce prices and meeting with wind power executives the same day.
The MBS meeting caused a further headache for the White House after Biden drew bipartisan condemnation Friday for giving the crown prince a fist bump as he arrived at the royal palace in Jeddah.
“President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia is another slap to the face of American oil and gas producers,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said in a statement. “From day one, Biden has demonized reliable energy producers through his rhetoric and policies. Now he’s fist bumping Saudi royals. Despicable.”
According to NBC, White House advisers agonized over the choreography of Biden’s initial meeting with the crown prince — including whether the president should smile at MBS, shake hands with him, or offer “warm words” about the relationship between Washington and Riyadh while reporters and cameras were present.
Ultimately, the outlet reported, it was decided to recommend Biden not smile when greeting MBS — even though the advisers themselves acknowledged Biden would likely do whatever he wished in the moment.
High gas prices have fueled public anger at Biden’s administration, with a New York Times poll released Monday finding that 64% of Democrats want a new presidential candidate in 2024.
Biden last month asked Congress to temporarily waive the federal gas tax of 18.3 cents per gallon, but was rebuffed. He previously ordered the release of a million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for six months and allowed a higher proportion of ethanol in gas over the summer, but neither step lowered prices.
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