A gas station attendant pumps gas on August 15, 2020 in Somers Point, New Jersey. (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld via Getty Images)

A gas station attendant pumps gas on August 15, 2020 in Somers Point, New Jersey. (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld via Getty Images)

'Utter Lack of Credibility as a Climate Leader': Biden Pressures OPEC to Pump More Oil

"Maybe instead of boosting oil production, President Biden should have pushed for more electric vehicle and transit spending in the infrastructure bill?"

Two days after U.S. President Joe Biden responded to the IPCC's latest report about how fossil fuel emissions are intensifying extreme weather by saying, "We can't wait to tackle the climate crisis," the White House on Wednesday urged the oil-producing giants of OPEC to increase production as a way to bring down gasoline prices.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that "higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery."

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil-rich nations' existing plan to boost oil supply, Sullivan continued, would "not fully offset previous production cuts" made during the Covid-19 pandemic "until well into 2022."

Although government officials in multiple countries vowed to treat recovery from the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to "Build Back Better," only a small fraction of the trillions of dollars in public relief money has been invested in greening the economy.

And while large swaths of the planet are on fire and millions of people around the world are struggling with global vaccine inequity, food and housing insecurity, and other forms of economic hardship, Sullivan suggested that what's really needed right now is cheaper gas.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

In July, OPEC and a group of Russian-led oil producers agreed to unleash millions of barrels of crude over the next two years, committing to restore all the cuts they made at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The group chose to move gradually, with monthly installments of new oil through the latter end of 2022.

"At a critical moment in the global recovery, this is simply not enough," Sullivan said of the production increases planned by OPEC+, which includes the 13 member nations of the cartel plus oil-producing allies such as Russia.

"President Biden has made clear that he wants Americans to have access to affordable and reliable energy, including at the pump," added Sullivan. "Although we are not a party to OPEC, the United States will always speak to international partners regarding issues of significance that affect our national economic and security affairs, in public and private."

In addition to pressuring OPEC+ to ramp up oil production, "the White House asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the domestic gasoline market for any anti-competitive behavior that could be increasing prices," ABC Newsreported Wednesday.

Progressive critics were quick to point out the glaring discrepancy between Biden's professed commitment to climate action and his administration's prioritization of securing cheap gas.

Citing a recent piece in The New Republic by climate journalist Kate Aronoff, Columbia University history professor Adam Tooze on Wednesday decried the White House's message to OPEC.

"There have been rumors for some time of Biden admin pressure on OPEC to increase production, but this clinches it!" Tooze declared. "Everything [Aronoff] says in her piece is confirmed. Notably America's utter lack of credibility as a climate leader."

In her piece, Aronoff argued that the Biden administration, which claims to take the ecological crisis seriously but perpetuates the status quo by continuing to work in concert with the fossil fuel industry, is engaging in "climate denial."

Politicians like Biden "don't dispute that the climate is changing," wrote Aronoff, "but they are absolutely in denial about what curbing it would entail."

In response to the White House's new memo to OPEC, Yevgeny Shrago of Public Citizen quipped that "maybe instead of boosting oil production, President Biden should have pushed for more [electric vehicle] and transit spending in the infrastructure bill?"

As Common Dreams reported last week, the Biden administration has been criticized for proposing electric vehicle and auto emissions targets that scientists and progressives say are woefully inadequate.

Moreover, Biden is reportedly considering a "no double dip" policy on infrastructure, which would limit the ability of congressional Democrats to use their $3.5 trillion reconciliation package to increase spending on climate-related provisions that were already agreed upon--but insufficiently funded--in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the climate emergency, if left unchecked, is likely to result in increasingly frequent "billion-dollar weather and climate disasters" nationwide. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has warned that the same pattern can be expected on a global scale, with especially devastating consequences for marginalized populations living in highly vulnerable regions.

Experts have predicted that rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a completely renewable energy system would improve economic well-being and save tens of millions of lives. Failing to do so would, in Sullivan's words, "risk harming the ongoing global recovery."

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