President Joe Biden’s aides were confident that they had agreed to a clandestine deal with Saudi Arabia to boost oil production ahead of the midterm elections, according to The New York Times.
However, Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) defied the Biden administration and decided to significantly cut oil production instead.
Biden’s senior energy adviser Amos Hochstein and national security coordinator Brett McGurk met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in May and agreed to a secret oil production increase in May, the NYT reported, citing White House officials.
Despite this, Saudi Arabia, OPEC and its Russia-led allies, which are collectively known as OPEC+, voted on Oct. 5 to cut crude oil production by two million barrels per day, exacerbating supply concerns and threatening to raise gas prices ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
Following the secret agreement, the White House expected Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s top three oil producers, to increase oil production in the summer and steadily raise production by 200,000 barrels each day from September until the end of December, according to the NYT.
The Arab kingdom and OPEC+ announced on June 2. that they would increase oil production for the months of July and August by 50% more than originally planned, which was in accordance with the first portion of the agreement with Biden’s officials.
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Biden also announced that he would visit Saudi Arabia on June 2 and arrived in the kingdom on July 15 to meet with Prince Mohammed and call on the country to pump more oil to bring down high gas prices which peaked in June. Despite this, OPEC+ only boosted production by 100,000 barrels a day in December which was half of what Biden’s advisers agreed with the Saudis.
When it became clear that OPEC was going to significantly cut production in October the White House attempted to pressure Saudi Arabia to change course, according to the NYT. During a meeting with White House officials, the Saudi Prince said that his country would not reduce oil production; however, only four days later Saudi officials told the Biden administration that their nation would agree to cut production along with other OPEC+ nations.
Biden’s senior officials threatened Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations ahead of the vote, warning that the production cut would be seen as a “hostile act,” according to CNN. The White House and Senate Democrats are now considering policies aimed at punishing Saudi Arabia and OPEC for slashing production, CNN reported.
Prince Mohammed’s brother and Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Tuesday criticized nations for using emergency oil releases to manipulate prices, according to Business Insider. Biden has sold 165 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and will deliver 15 million more in December, according to the Energy Department.