Mar 10, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Biden administration offers oil execs olive branch — and criticism

illustration of olive branch and arrows
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

HOUSTON — Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was by turns defiant and solicitous in remarks to oil-and-gas executives here as she called for cooperation on supply increases and the clean energy transition.

Why it matters: Her speech on Wednesday at the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference is part of a push for faster domestic output growth as Russia's war on Ukraine crimps supply, but without — so far — backing off policies the industry calls restrictive.

Driving the news: "We are on a war footing. We are in an emergency. And we have to responsibly increase short-term supply where we can right now to stabilize the market and to minimize harm to American families," Granholm said.

Yes, but: Granholm also warned the industry against "talking points" about federal restrictions on oil and LNG output, calling it the "same old D.C. BS." Instead, she called out companies' Wall Street backers for being a check on output.

  • "Aren’t we ready to finally work together to confront this moment of crisis and come out stronger on the other side?"
  • Granholm said the administration is "ready to work with you to seize the opportunity of clean energy" and praised the work companies are already doing.

Quick take: Biden's team traveled to the heart of the oil industry to say they're not the problem, despite the high-profile White House push on climate, arguing there's no tension there with near-term production hikes.

"We can walk and chew gum at the same time," Granholm said.

Or consider my brief chat yesterday with Richard Glick, the Democratic chairman of the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

  • He said recent policy on weighing greenhouse gas emissions in LNG project reviews — criticized by the industry — will actually add legal certainty.
  • "We're going to do it the right way and make sure that the courts don't don't have to send it back to us," he said, while also pledging "expeditious" project reviews.

Yes, but: While execs here have agreed that investor demands and supply chain woes are a check on the speed of supply growth, they also see federal headwinds.

  • American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers said Tuesday the administration has sent negative signals about its view of the U.S. oil-and-gas future and criticized its steps to curb federal leasing.
  • "The rhetoric from the administration is we need more oil now, but we don't need it later," he told Axios.
  • "Why would you expect any company to invest in long-term projects, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico or someplace else when you don't know what the policy regime is going to look like even two years from now?"
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