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White House ‘disappointed’ with OPEC+ decision to cut oil production, will release more from US reserves

(WASHINGTON) — The White House on Wednesday expressed disappointment following the announcement from OPEC+ that it would cut two million barrels per day from its production quotas beginning in November.

The decision by the OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, is likely a response to oil prices dropping amid less demand stemming from a global economic slowdown. Oil prices currently hover around approximately $80 per barrel, down from the $100-plus cost it hit during late spring and early summer.

Reducing supply will likely boost the cost of oil, which could raise the price Americans pay at the gas pump around the November midterm election — and it comes just a few months after Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia in July to lobby Middle Eastern allies to increase production.

“The president is disappointed by the shortsighted decision by OPEC+ to cut production quotas while the global economy is dealing with the continued negative impact of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement from national security adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese.

The White House also said President Biden has directed the Department of Energy to release another 10 million oil barrels from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve next month, signaling the administration’s effort to keep gas prices low with a month until the crucial midterms. The release was previously planned, according to an Energy Department press release.

Biden offered little response when asked about the OPEC+ alliance’s decision as he left the White House to head to Florida Wednesday morning.

“I need to see what the detail is,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s shouted question about the decision. “I am concerned, it is unnecessary.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the administration would continue to ensure energy prices are “kept low” in light of the OPEC+ announcement. The national average cost of a gallon of gas is currently $3.83, up about 62 cents from last year, according to AAA.

After the president struggled to rein in record-high gas prices that peaked at over $5 per gallon this summer, he and his administration have touted falling prices repeatedly over the past few weeks.

“And thanks to this president’s efforts, we — and his historic actions that he has taken, energy prices have declined sharply from their highs and American consumers are paying far less at the pump than they were several months ago,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

“And again, it’s because of the historic steps that this president has taken,” she added. Jean-Pierre did not directly comment on the OPEC+ alliance’s expected move from the podium.

But the White House’s move to take credit for relief at the pump is much different from the administration’s messaging earlier in the year. The largely unsuccessful White House effort to counter damaging daily headlines about skyrocketing prices at the pump saw it blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for high energy issues before floating federal action that never happened.

And in July — when gas prices eased some over their June high — Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he held a controversial meeting with met with Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salam. The Middle Eastern nation accounts for roughly 17% of the world’s petroleum reserves, according to OPEC+.

“We had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies to support global economic growth,” Biden said during his visit to Saudi. “I’m doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen,” he added.

“The Saudis share that urgency, and based on our discussions today, I expect we will see further steps in the coming weeks,” Biden said.

Some saw the move as desperate, while others criticized Biden for his infamous fist-bump with a man accused of human rights abuses, including the 2018 death of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.

Wednesday’s announcement from OPEC+ comes about a month after the alliance a 100,000 barrel per-day reduction to take effect in October. A similar cut in oil production also took effect in September.

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