WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden remains focused on keeping fuel prices down for Americans, the White House said on Wednesday after OPEC+ decided to raise oil output by a modest 100,000 barrels per day, which analysts called an insult after Biden visited Saudi Arabia last month.
“What we’re focused on is keeping those prices down,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news briefing when asked about the OPEC+ decision.
OPEC and allied producers including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, were set to raise output by 100,000 bpd from September. Two sources told Reuters the decision was effectively approved in a closed-door meeting.
Analysts said the increase was equal to only 86 seconds of global oil demand.
“That is so little as to be meaningless. From a physical standpoint it is a marginal blip. As a political gesture it is almost insulting,” said Raad Alkadiri, managing director for energy, climate, and sustainability at Eurasia Group.
Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July was aimed at persuading OPEC’s leader to pump more oil to help alleviate high prices in the United States and the global economy. For weeks, experts have speculated that OPEC+ would pump more oil after the trip and Washington’s clearance of missile defense system sales to Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates.R
The Saudi trip was scheduled only after OPEC+ announced in early June that it would increase output each month by 50 percent in July and August, Jean-Pierre said.
“We wanted to see some increases in the production before we announced the trip and we actually saw that in that first week of June,” she said.
Pressed on whether the relatively small increase was an insult to Biden, Jean-Pierre repeatedly said “prices are coming down.”
Amos Hochstein, a top administration energy security adviser, called the increase “a step in the right direction” in an interview on CNN on Wednesday.
He acknowledged the move would not have a significant impact on fuel costs for Americans.
“Our main focus is not about the numbers of barrels. Our main focus is on bringing prices down,” he said.