Written by Jarrett Renshaw and Sabrina Valle.
(Reuters) – Washington Top White House officials met with oil executives on Friday to talk about Hurricane Ian and low gasoline stocks, while President Joe Biden told the industry not to jack up prices too much, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Sources say that the White House asked the eight oil companies, which include Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp, and Marathon Petroleum Corp, to meet late on Thursday.
Gasoline prices at the pump have gone up because the supply has gotten tighter due to a combination of unplanned outages at refineries and planned maintenance at other plants.
AAA says that the average price of a gallon of gas at the pump is now $3.79, which is 11 cents more than a week ago. However, prices are still lower than they were a month ago.
Biden told oil companies that they shouldn’t use the storm as an excuse to raise gas prices, which have already gone up a lot this year because Russia invaded Ukraine.
“This small, short-term storm effect on oil production is no reason at all for gas prices to go up,” he said.
Hurricane Ian wrecked Florida on Thursday and was hitting South Carolina on Friday. Earlier in the month, Hurricane Fiona caused a lot of damage in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Ian price-gouging is discussed at the White House.
The meeting was supposed to include the head of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese; the secretary of energy, Jennifer Granholm; and Amos Hochstein, a senior energy adviser at the State Department.
Prices have gone up the most in the Midwest and on the West Coast. This is because of a fire at a BP PLC refinery in Toledo, Ohio, and the fact that four California refineries either had to close for maintenance or had units shut down without warning.
California’s air pollution regulator said on Friday that gas stations and refineries can start selling winter-blend fuel right away. This will help bring down the state’s high gas prices, which are the highest in the country. The average price per gallon in California is $6.35, while the national average is $3.80. Until Oct. 31, the blend is usually sold all over the state.
This year, the difference between wholesale gasoline futures and retail prices has grown because there are not as many refineries as there used to be. It’s about $1.30 per gallon right now, compared to an average of 88 cents over the past five years.
Exxon and Chevron, two U.S. oil companies, didn’t say anything about the White House meeting.
Chevron said in a separate statement that it “has zero tolerance for illegal price gouging” and that it has reminded its independently owned distributors to follow price gouging laws that were put in place as part of the response to Hurricane Ian.
In a letter to the Energy Department this week, Exxon pushed back against the Biden administration’s August call to cut U.S. fuel exports. The company said that limiting shipments would make global supplies even tighter and raise pump prices at home.
Granholm said in a statement, “This week’s letter from a company that made nearly $200 million in profit every single day last quarter misses the point.” “Now is the time for American energy companies to take action to lower prices for consumers and build up gasoline and diesel stocks in the U.S. that are below the five-year range.”
(Jarrett Renshaw contributed reporting, as did Arathy Somasekhar and Sabrina Vale in Houston, and editing by Cynthia Osterman, Jonathan Oatis, and Bill Berkrot.)
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