Biden Shouldn't Rely on Saudi Arabia to Fix Gas Prices: Energy Executive

American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO Mike Sommers is urging Joe Biden to reconsider his energy policy ahead of the president's visit to the oil-rich Middle East, arguing the administration should focus on expanding domestic energy sources instead of turning to foreign production.

"While we appreciate the opportunity to open increased dialogue with the White House, the administration's misguided policy agenda shifting away from domestic oil and natural gas has compounded inflationary pressures and added headwinds to companies' daily efforts to meet growing energy needs while reducing emissions," Sommers said in a Wednesday statement.

"Ahead of his travel to the Middle East next month, we urge the President to prioritize unlocking U.S. energy resources—that are the envy of the world—instead of increasing reliance on foreign sources," Sommers added. The API is the nation's largest trade association for the oil and natural gas industry.

Biden is expected to travel to the Middle East between July 13 and 16, making stops in Israel and the West Bank before finishing his trip in Saudi Arabia. There, oil is "absolutely" going to be part of the president's talks with Saudi officials, the National Security Council's John Kirby told MSNBC on Tuesday.

Biden Energy Saudi Arabia
The American Petroleum Institute's CEO is urging Joe Biden to reconsider his energy policy ahead of the president's visit to the Middle East. Above, Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 13 as he departs for a weekend in Wilmington, Delaware. Stefani Reynolds/AFP

On Tuesday, Biden sent letters to seven major U.S. oil refiners—Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, Marathon, Valero, Phillips 66 and Chevron. He said while he understood why the companies reduced refinery capacity before he took office, it is "unacceptable" that energy costs are "being passed directly onto American families."

In his letter, the president urged the oil refiners to produce more gasoline and diesel, saying that their profits have tripled at a time when Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created a global energy crisis and left Americans struggling to pay at the gas station.

"The crunch that families are facing deserves immediate action," Biden wrote. "Your companies need to work with my Administration to bring forward concrete, near-term solutions that address the crisis and respect the critical equities of energy workers and fence-line communities."

Gas prices are averaging roughly $5 a gallon nationwide, an increase of $1.70 per gallon since the beginning of the year, Biden noted. The rising cost to fill up has not only hurt many Americans; it also poses a serious political threat to the Democrats ahead of this fall's midterm elections.

In a response to Biden's letter, Sommers sent his own, outlining 10 policy actions the Biden administration should take to "alleviate pain at the pump and strengthen national security."

"While members of your administration have recently discussed the need for additional supplies to solve the energy crisis, your administration has restricted oil and natural gas development, canceled energy infrastructure projects, imposed regulatory uncertainty, and proposed new tax increases on American oil and gas producers competing globally," Sommers wrote to Biden.

"Respectfully, the American people need a different direction to solve this
crisis," he added.

Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia has drawn criticism from not only top energy executives. Others have raised questions about whether his administration is letting the Saudis off the hook for the 2018 killing in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a U.S. resident.

During his presidential campaign, Biden had promised that Saudi Arabia would "pay the price" for Khashoggi's murder and that he would "make them in fact the pariah that they are."

On Tuesday, Kirby said Biden has "held Saudi Arabia accountable through a series of measures." He added that he wouldn't get ahead of the president's meetings next month, saying that "human rights are always on the agenda when we're meeting with counterparts all over the world."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.