Biden expresses 'disappointment' over Opec+ oil cut as US seeks alternatives

US president defends trip to Saudi Arabia in July, arguing it wasn’t about oil

The Opec+ announcement comes months after President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia in an attempt to reset ties with Riyadh. EPA
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President Joe Biden on Thursday expressed disappointment in the Opec+ decision to slash oil production and said the US will look for alternatives, after the cut led to a jump in oil prices weeks before midterm elections that will decide who controls Congress.

The Opec+ decision means the alliance will cut output by two million barrels per day, its biggest reduction since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

It comes months after Mr Biden visited Saudi Arabia in an attempt to reset ties with Riyadh and request extra oil to help offset record-high prices in the US that were weighing heavily on his approval ratings at home.

Asked by reporters if he now regrets the trip, Mr Biden said: “The trip was not essentially about oil. The trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and the rationalisation of positions.”

But he added that it is a disappointment and that “there are problems”.

He told reporters that his administration is now “looking at alternatives”.

“We haven't made up our minds yet,” he said.

The US senior adviser for energy security, Amos Hochstein, went further than Mr Biden, calling the Opec+ decision “a mistake” and “unnecessary at this time”.

Mr Hochstein, who visited Saudi Arabia last month and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told Bloomberg TV that he had not been made aware that such a steep cut was imminent.

Now the White House is looking for alternatives, including a legislation that would allow the US to sue Opec+ for manipulating the market.

“The Biden administration will also consult with Congress on additional tools and authorities to reduce Opec's control over energy prices,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday.

But experts said the US may have limited options and cautioned against politicising energy policy.

“Addressing the global energy security challenge requires a longer-term strategic view and understanding the role of oil and gas in our global economy and relationships,” Karen Young, senior research scholar at the Centre on Global Energy Policy at Columbia, told The National.

She saw US-Gulf relations headed yet again for some turbulence following the decision.

“Opec+ has the leverage as a market maker, US shale does not, and at the end of the day, Russia, Saudi and the UAE are in business together,” the expert added.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 5:06 PM
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