The Biden administration downplayed the effect of the surprise decision by OPEC+ to continue production cuts, insisting that the situation is different than last year. This response contrasts the administration’s stance in October of last year when President Joe Biden threatened consequences for Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ cut. The administration’s current response was outlined by National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby at Wednesday’s White House briefing.
Kirby pointed out that the oil has traded down for the past month to around $80 per barrel, reaching as low as $63 last month. By comparison, last year, prices soared to well above $110, even hitting $139 briefly in overnight trading in early March. During the prior OPEC+ cut in October, the price per barrel sat at $88.
Kirby also noted that prices at the pump had decreased significantly since last year, dropping more than $1.50 per gallon from last summer’s peak.
Kirby emphasized that the administration will continue to work with producers and consumers to ensure that markets support economic growth and lower prices.
“We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to assist in balancing supply and demand,” said Kirby. “We’re going to continue to work with our partners around the world to ensure that we have an adequate supply of oil to meet our needs.”
Contrasting with Kirby’s relatively lax response, last October, Biden threatened consequences for Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ cut. In an interview with CNBC at the time, the president stated, “If OPEC+ chooses to continue down this path, we will take appropriate action, including potentially imposing consequences on Saudi Arabia, which has the most spare capacity and the most sway within OPEC.”
On Wednesday, when pressed about the disparate responses, Kirby said the two situations are not alike and rejected that the administration was demonstrating an inconsistency.
“Your question presupposes that with every muscle movement, at whatever interval, we have to react in exactly the same way,” said Kirby. “The situation is different now than it was last year, and I stand by everything that we said about it.”
The OPEC+ decision to extend production cuts has sparked concerns about rising oil prices, which could significantly impact the U.S. economy. Kirby emphasized that the administration is closely monitoring the situation and is prepared to take action if necessary.
“We’re going to continue to watch the markets closely,” said Kirby. “If we see any issues that arise, we’re going to be prepared to act.”