National Economic Council Director Brian Deese was asked during Thursday’s press briefing to identify what companies the Biden administration considers to be good actors or bad actors.
"I want to give you an opportunity, for Americans who want to do the patriotic thing, where should they be going to buy their gas right now?" the reporter asked. "Are there good companies that have worked with the administration and folks that you're frustrated with right now?"
Deese declined to name any companies, saying, "I would say our goal is to provide relief to all Americans in all geographies across the country."
"And that means doing everything we can to bring down the price of gas at the pump everywhere," Deese continued. "And so that's our focus, and the issue of the prices of gas going up very quickly and tracking oil prices and coming down much more slowly is not new. It's old enough that economists have a particular term associated with it called rockets and feathers. But it just because we can identify it doesn't mean that it reflects an efficient market or competitive market. So that that has been that has been our focus."
Biden announced earlier Thursday that he will release an additional 1 million barrels of oil each day for the next six months, 180 million total, from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in an effort to combat soaring gasoline prices. That would leave the already-depleted SPR down to around 388 million barrels, the lowest level since March 1984.
Biden also called on Congress to force oil companies to pay fees for unused leases, accusing energy producers of "hoarding" wells on federal lands. He said that companies "sitting on unused leases and idle wells will either have to start producing or pay the price for their inaction."
"For U.S oil companies that are recording their largest profits in years, they have a choice," the president said. "One, they can put those profits to productive use by producing more oil, restarting idle wells, or producing on the sites they already are leasing, giving the American people a break by passing some of the savings on to their customers and lowering the price at the pump. Or they can, as some of them are doing, exploit the situation, sit back, ship those profits to the investors while American families struggle to make ends meet."
The oil and gas industry insists that obtaining a lease is merely the first step in a process that includes permitting and investigating whether there is actually any fossil fuel below the ground to extract.
The White House pressure on oil companies over "unused" leases is being echoed by Democrats in Congress, who are pushing the companies' CEOs to testify next week.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce said on Tuesday executives from BP America, Chevron, Devon Energy Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., Pioneer Natural Resources Co., and Shell USA, will participate in a hearing next week.
The April 6 hearing notably does not include the nation's two largest refineries, Texas-based Marathon or Valero, or the owner of the largest refinery in America, Saudi Aramco. Refining is a key step between oil production and the gas pump.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz, Kyle Morris and Breck Dumas contributed to this report.