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Top U.S. energy official to hold emergency meeting with oil execs in bid to lower gas prices

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Top U.S. energy official to hold emergency meeting with oil execs in bid to lower gas prices
Several factors are keeping gas prices high, including rising summer demand, limited capacity at U.S. and foreign refineries and the Russian war in Ukraine. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

June 23 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden's top energy officer was scheduled to meet with a number of oil executives on Thursday in an emergency session aimed at lowering gas prices in the United States, which have been around $5 per gallon for weeks.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will meet with the execs mainly to encourage them to increase production. Biden sent a letter to those oil company leaders last week and urged them to hike production, which would almost certainly lower prices at the pump.

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"Your companies and others have an opportunity to take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel, and other refined product you are producing and supplying to the United States market," Biden wrote in the letter, which was addressed to the top executives at Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, Valero, Marathon, Phillips 66 and BP.

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In the letter, the president criticized the oil companies for taking in record profits as American drivers are paying record prices for gasoline.

RELATED Biden urges Congress to pass gas-tax holiday, refiners to expand capacity

Earlier this year, Chevron and ExxonMobil reported a combined profit of nearly $12 billion during the first quarter of 2022. BP and Shell also reported sizable profits over the first three months of the year.

"Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you are paying for the product. Do it now. Do it today," Biden added in his letter. "Your customers, the American people, they need relief now."

Several major oil producers have reported big profits so far this year after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed down national demand and prices at the pump. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

In response, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth told Biden that the oil companies have been doing what they can to prevent excessively high prices.

RELATED Gas prices continue modest decline; U.S. average under $5

"Chevron and its 37,000 employees work every day to help provide the world with the energy it demands and to lift up the lives of billions of people who rely on these supplies," he wrote in a letter to Biden, according to The Hill.

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"Notwithstanding these efforts, your administration has largely sought to criticize, and at times vilify, our industry. These actions are not beneficial to meeting the challenges we face and are not what the American people deserve."

Several factors are keeping gas prices high, including rising summer demand, limited capacity at U.S. and foreign refineries and the Russian war in Ukraine. Moscow has made various costly moves since the fighting began in February that have removed Russian-produced oil from many world markets.

RELATED White House faces obstacles to gas rebate cards, other ideas to address high prices

According to AAA, the national average for gasoline on Thursday was $4.94 per gallon. That's down almost 2 cents from Wednesday and about 7 cents from a week ago.

California has the nation's most expensive gas, at $6.36 per gallon, followed by Nevada ($5.61), Alaska ($5.59) and Hawaii ($5.56).

In another move to lower prices, Biden called on Congress on Wednesday to pass a three-month suspension of the federal gasoline tax. The federal government charges a tax of about 18 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24 cents per gallon for diesel fuel.

RELATED Biden: While Americans hurt at the gas pump, Exxon made 'more money than God'

If Congress authorizes a gas-tax holiday, the move would shave those amounts off the cost of fuel nationwide. States also impose their own gas tax, which varies in cost. California has the steepest tax, at nearly 70 cents per gallon. All gas taxes finance a range of infrastructure-related projects, such as bridge and road repairs and maintenance.

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Biden also called on states to suspend their gas taxes temporarily this summer to bring relief to motorists.

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