Energy Secretary Slams Big Oil's 'Enormous Profits' as Travelers Face Sticker Shock

As gasoline prices have soared to $1.30 more per gallon on average compared to last year, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm criticized the American oil industry Tuesday for continuing to rake in millions in profits.

Granholm's remarks came as she was speaking to the press during the daily White House briefing.

"Domestically, we're producing about 11 million barrels of oil a day; that's down from 12 million in 2019 ... why hasn't domestic production returned in a way that would lower prices?" a reporter asked Granholm.

"We have 250 fewer oil rigs that are functioning today than we did before the pandemic, and yet, the oil and gas industry has leases on 23 million acres of public land on and offshore," Granholm replied. "At the same time, the energy industry is making enormous profits. They're back up to above where they were before the pandemic started."

"So [the oil companies] have taken advantage of that moment, the profits, to be able to engage in shareholder buybacks," she continued.

Granholm appeared to link the issues with oil companies to the rising cost of gas, and also took aim at some of the practices these corporations use to save money.

This includes, Granholm stated, not rehiring people who had been laid off during COVID and not turning on certain oil rigs.

Inflation on gas prices comes amid one of the busiest holidays of the year. As millions of Americans prepare to travel by car for Thanksgiving, many are seeing record highs at the pump.

The average gas price per gallon in the United States is currently $3.40, according to AAA. Comparatively, the average one year ago was $2.10 per gallon.

Granholm noted that even though the U.S. president did not control the price of gas, the Department of Energy and President Joe Biden's administration were working to try to slash totals at the pump.

Jennifer Granholm Briefing
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm has stated that oil companies have continued to make significant profits despite the average American seeing soaring prices at the gas pump. Here, Granholm can be seen during a press conference in November. Alex Wong/Getty

This strategy came to a head Tuesday when Biden pledged to release 50 million petroleum barrels from the national reserve in order to drive down gas prices.

"Our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight, but it will make a difference," Biden said. "It will take time, but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank."

Despite Biden's statement, Secretary Granholm suggested that the oil companies should do their part to help, as well.

"We want to encourage [oil companies] to increase supply. We want supply to be increased both inside the United States and around the world so that we can reduce the pressures at the pump," she stated.

Oil companies rank among the most profitable and wealthy in the nation. As of October, gas conglomerate ExxonMobil, the largest oil corporation in America, has a total stock value of $257 billion.

The second-largest, Chevron, still ranks with a reported stock value of $201 billion.

Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. Department of Energy for comment.