US President Joe Biden on Monday accused oil companies of “war profiteering” as he raised the possibility of imposing a windfall tax if they do not boost domestic production.
In brief remarks, Biden criticised major oil companies for making record-setting profits while refusing to help lower prices at the petrol station for the American people.
“Oil companies' record profits today are not because of doing something new or innovative,” Biden said.
“Their profits are a windfall of war, a windfall for the brutal conflict that’s ravaging Ukraine and hurting tens of millions of people around the globe.”
The president suggested he would look to Congress to levy tax penalties on oil tax companies if they do not begin to invest some of their profits in lowering costs for US consumers.
The president issued the warning just days before the 8 November midterm elections.
“My team will work with Congress to look at these options that are available to us and others,” Biden said.
“It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering, meet their responsibilities in this country and give the American people a break and still do very well.”
Biden took aim at one company, ExxonMobil, that reported $19.7 billion (€19.8bn) earnings in the third quarter alone.
He lashed at the Irving, Texas-headquarter business for using record profits to provide shareholders with hefty dividends and stock buybacks but failing to invest in production improvements that would benefit the end consumers.
Another oil company, Chevron, had $11.23bn (€11.3bn) in profits in the third quarter, almost reaching the record profits it attained in the prior quarter.
Over the last two quarters, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and TotalEnergy earned over €100 billion in profits—more than they earned last year and almost three times what they earned in the same quarters of 2021.
High prices at the petrol station have exacerbated inflation and have taken a toll on Biden and Democrats’ standing among voters.
Congress would have to approve any additional taxes on the energy producers — which would be a tall order in the current Congress where Democrats have narrow control of the House and Senate, and even less likely should Republicans retake one or both chambers on 8 November.
Americans have struggled with painfully high petrol prices in recent months, paying more than €4.80 on average for a gallon (approx. four litres) of regular at the beginning of July, according to AAA.
They’ve since fallen to €3.78 on average nationally, but the White House says they should be lower, given declines in global oil prices over the same period.
“Can’t believe I have to say this but giving profits to shareholders is not the same as bringing prices down for American families,” Biden tweeted on Friday.
Biden has been critical of energy companies' profits since June, when he complained publicly that “Exxon made more money than God this year.”