US can 'counter Russia's influence' by expanding domestic oil and gas production: American Petroleum Institute

US oil and gas industry stepping up amid a 'crisis moment for the world,' API CEO says

Mike Sommers, the American Petroleum Institute (API) president and CEO, argued on Wednesday that American energy producers "are patriots" and are supplying the world with natural gas and oil "during this time of crisis."

In a statement released by API on Wednesday, the day after President Biden announced the U.S. will ban imports of Russian crude, natural gas and coal in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, the national trade association said, "We share the goal of reducing reliance on foreign energy sources and urge policymakers to advance American energy leadership and expand domestic production to counter Russia's influence in global energy markets."

The statement also noted that prior to Biden’s announcement, "the industry has already taken significant and meaningful steps to unwind relationships, both with respect to assets in Russia as well as imports of Russian crude oil and refined products."

Speaking with "Mornings with Maria" on Wednesday, Sommers stressed that the American oil and gas industry is stepping up amid a "crisis moment for the world." 

"We want to make sure that we’re supplying the world with both natural gas and oil during this time of crisis and we don’t want Russian oil in the American market," he told host Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday, speaking from the CERAWeek by IHS Markit energy conference in Houston, Texas.  

Sommers told Bartiromo that many industry leaders at the energy conference have been stressing the "strategic importance of American oil and gas."

"I think there’s a new recognition of how important it is that the United States reclaim its role as the world energy leader during times of crisis like this," he said. "I think there’s been too much focus over the course of the last many years on down-playing that important role. We need to return to that position."

During Biden’s news conference on Tuesday, he also said that it is "simply not true" that his administration or his policies "are holding back domestic energy production."

"Even amid the pandemic, companies in the United States pumped more oil during my first year in office than they did during my predecessor’s first year," he said.

"We're approaching record levels of oil and gas production in the United States and we’re on track to set a record of oil production next," he said, adding that in the U.S. "90% of onshore oil production takes place on land that isn’t owned by the federal government." 

"And the remaining 10% that occurs on federal land, the oil and gas industry has millions of acres leased – they have 9,000 permits to drill," he said. "Now, they could be drilling right now. Yesterday, last week, last year, they have 9,000 to drill onshore that are already approved."

"So let me be clear: they are not using them for production. That’s their decision," he said. "These are the facts. We should be honest about the facts." 

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called out the American Petroleum Institute and claimed that the Biden administration not stopping U.S. oil production. 

"There have been some, including the American Petroleum Institute, who have claimed that this is an issue of having access or funds," Psaki said. 

"The oil and gas industry has a lot of permits," she continued, adding that "onshore alone, [there are] more than 9,000 unused approved permits to drill."

"And I would note that only 10% of drilling is happening on federal lands. The other 90% is on private lands, but, I’m talking about the 10% in that case," she went on to say. "So the argument that there are just no opportunities to drill for oil is just not true."

Psaki then argued that "the phenomenon that we’re actually seeing is much more about firms wanting to return cash to investors than about a lack of opportunity."

Speaking with Bartiromo on Wednesday, Sommers responded to Psaki’s comments the day before, saying she "has a fundamental misunderstanding as to how the process works for federal lands on both federal lands and federal waters."

"It takes a long time to develop those leases," he noted. What "she’s actually advocating for here is that we lease those lands and then not do any environmental review, not actually explore as to whether or not those lands actually have productive oil and gas and then actually violate the law without getting a permit."

"What we’re suggesting here is that there’s a long lead time, once you get a lease in place. It’s not as if you can just set up a rig on those lands," Sommers continued. 

OIL PRICES RISE AFTER US BANS IMPORTS OF RUSSIAN CRUDE

"So our members are of course trying to get those leases, but we also have to remember that there hasn’t been a lease sale in this country since the Biden administration went into effect. We need more access to these federal lands and particularly these federal waters, which we’re not getting."

He then stressed that "at the same time, the American oil and gas industry is stepping up."

"In fact, just in the last year we’ve increased production by almost a million barrels to meet the moment, to make sure that American consumers have access to oil and gas made right here in the United States," Sommers continued. 

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As of late Tuesday morning, U.S. West Texas Intermediate fell to $117 per barrel while Brent was at $121, both easing from previous highs. Still, gas prices climbed with the national average now at $4.25 per gallon. 

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FOX Business’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.