By Jarrett Renshaw and Laura Sanicola
- Major U.S. oil refiners will meet with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other Biden officials on Thursday in an emergency meeting about how to lower record-high fuel prices that are squeezing American consumers.
The two sides are meeting with a promise to work together in good faith, but they appear far apart on solutions. The discussion comes at a tense moment for President Joe Biden and Big Oil, as the president has spent the last few weeks bashing its CEOs for reaping huge profits from a fuel supply crunch exacerabted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The average price of gasoline was $4.955 per gallon on Wednesday, according to data from the American Automobile Association, 37 cents more than a month ago, and $1.89 more than a year ago.
Retail sales and gasoline prices https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-STOCKS/egpbkgkrlvq/retailsalesgas.png
Refiners cut capacity during the COVID-19 crisis shutdowns, but post-pandemic demand and a global fuel crisis after Western nations sanctioned Russian oil have driven prices up.
Exxon, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and other refining giants reported a massive jump in profits at the end of 2021 and the first quarter of this year, and plan to shower shareholders with buybacks.
The White House has targeted the refining industry's decision to idle about 1 million barrels per day of production capacity since 2020, arguing they should use their bumper profits to restart plants or units and help fill the supply gap that is driving up prices.
Refiners have a "patriotic" duty to help with supply, the White House has said. [L1N2Y23JO]
"We're going in, in good faith, asking them the question of what can be done. What do you need to open up additional refining capacity?" Gramholm told reporters on Wednesday.
The meeting includes executives from Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron, Marathon and Phillips 66...