Jean-Pierre on drilling more in the US: 'We don't need to do that'

President Biden argues oil companies must increase refinery capacity

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shot down calls to increase oil drilling in the U.S. Thursday, saying the country doesn't need it.

Jean-Pierre made the comments in response to questions from Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy. Doocy pressed Jean Pierre to explain why President Biden's administration is seeking to alleviate skyrocketing gas prices by calling on oil companies to increase productivity at refineries instead of calling for more drilling.

Jean-Pierre argued that oil companies cut refinery capacity at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and have yet to increase that capacity back to pre-pandemic levels. Biden argues this, combined with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is causing the increase in gas prices.

"Why not just drill more here in the U.S., though?" Doocy asked.

"Because we don't need to do that," Jean-Pierre responded. "What we need [oil companies] to do is, with the oil that's out there, we need them to refine that oil so that the capacity can go up and that prices would go down."

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Karine Jean-Pierre

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.  (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The exchange comes days after Biden sent a letter threatening oil companies with executive intervention if they do not increase capacity at their refineries. Biden blamed oil companies for running "historically high profit margins" even as Americans experience surging gas prices.

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"There is no question that Vladimir Putin is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing," Biden wrote. "But amid a war that has raised gasoline prices more than $1.70 per gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are worsening that pain."

"Your companies and others have an opportunity to take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined product you are producing," he continued. "My administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied."

Biden sent letters to Marathon Petroleum Corp, Valero Energy Corp, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Chevron, BP and Shell.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
VLO VALERO ENERGY CORP. 101.69 -1.86 -1.80%
MPC MARATHON PETROLEUM CORP. 79.33 -2.38 -2.91%
XOM EXXON MOBIL CORP. 83.28 -1.53 -1.80%
PSX PHILLIPS 66 79.52 -0.86 -1.08%
CVX CHEVRON CORP. 140.75 -1.81 -1.27%
BP BP PLC 26.73 -0.42 -1.57%
SHEL SHELL PLC 48.01 -0.59 -1.21%

Biden ordered the sale of another 45 million barrels of crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve last week.

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Biden's letter does not offer a timeline for when his administration would resort to emergency powers, threatening only to do so in the "near term."