On October 5, OPEC and non-OPEC allies decided to impose cuts on oil production despite the fact that they were cautioned against doing so by the United States. The cartel will cut 2 million barrels, a move that could further elevate gas prices in the lead-up to midterm elections. To help ease the impact of the cuts, President Joe Biden, during remarks on gas prices and energy security delivered on October 19, announced a 3 point plan to address rising costs and global oil supplies, including the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Biden also called for oil companies to increase production instead of buying back stocks and paying dividends to their shareholders, and warned these companies not to gouge gas prices as the cost of oil comes down.
Fox has painted Biden as chiefly responsible for rising gas prices in a ploy to hurt Democratic candidates in the final weeks of midterm campaigning. Other right-wing media outlets and personalities have followed suit, and criticism has been magnified by a claim made on October 12 by Saudi Arabia’s ministry of foreign affairs saying that Biden asked OPEC to postpone the oil cuts for a month.
In response, right-wing media is using the same playbook and the same series of debunked arguments and disinformation from earlier in the year when Russia first invaded Ukraine and global energy security became a concern.
Right-wing media is once again misleading voters about how the global energy market works to push a pro-fossil fuel agenda.
Conservative media outlets are pushing the idea that drastically increasing oil production in the U.S. is a quick and common-sense solution to the problem of high gas prices because it would allow the U.S. to be “energy independent," a term experts have pointed out is widely misunderstood. The U.S. has imported oil for decades and will continue to do so for economic reasons. Importing and exporting some energy is necessary to meet the needs of the market. In that sense, we will probably never be truly energy independent in a fossil fuel economy. If we understand energy independence to mean the U.S. exports more energy than we import, that is still the case. In fact, by this standard, U.S. energy independence reached its peak in 2021 when Biden was president.
- Former Secretary of State under Trump and Fox News contributor Mike Pompeo: “Energy independence doesn't just mean lower costs for Americans. It means not having to beg Venezuelan dictators or the Iranian regime for more oil.” [Twitter, 10/9/22]
- Host columnist for the conservative The Washington Times and Newsmax contributor Kelly Sadler on Newsmax’s Wake Up America: “They [Democrats] want to put the fossil fuel industry out of business…as a result, we are not — we are no longer energy independent.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 10/10/22]
- Martha MacCallum, host of Fox News’ The Story: “There's no reason why we can't be energy independent. We have before.” MacCallum continued, “We scolded a lot of our energy companies out of expanding and growing their businesses because they have been told by several administrations, not the last one, that they were going to be out of business soon. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 10/12/22]
- Right-wing comedian and radio host Tim Young: “I'm so old, I remember when America was energy independent.” [Twitter, 10/12/22]
- Founder of dark money group Power the Future Daniel Turner said, “Americans could use energy independence right about now.” Turner: “Gas prices are near $4.00. Core inflation has hit a new 40-year high. Average winter heating costs will rise by 28%. Americans could use energy independence right about now.” [Twitter, 10/13/22]
- Fox News contributor Joe Concha: “We backed ourselves into this corner.” Concha: “The fact that we have to depend on Venezuela and OPEC+ which is basically Russia and Saudi Arabia instead of energy independence that we had here at home — gas and oil leases off of the Gulf Coast, off of the Alaska coast, ANWR, obviously XL pipeline. Now we’re dependent on all these other countries, we backed ourselves into this corner.” [Fox News, Hannity, 10/13/22]
- Former Trump economic advisor Stephen Moore on America’s Newsroom suggested that Biden’s plan to reduce oil and gas production in the future is responsible for rising energy costs. Moore: “We didn't talk a lot about OPEC when Trump was president because we were the number one producer of oil and gas. This administration has come in with a radical climate change agenda, which — he even admits he wants to take our oil and gas production down to zero in the next 12 years. That's the leading factor for why the price of gasoline has gone from 2.50 a gallon under Trump to now in many places it’s like $5 a gallon.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/14/22]
- Fox News anchor Dagen McDowell on The Five suggests that Biden is blocking the US from controlling world oil prices: “[Biden] won’t open our spigots wide open and start pumping all that delicious natural resources. … Four years ago, we were a net exporter of petroleum products, first time since 1949, we were the swing producer in the world, we controlled world oil prices. … Joe Biden could do that, but he won’t because he is obviously both a masochist because he likes taking it from Saudi Arabia and also a sadist because he likes inflicting pain on the people of the United States.” [Fox News, The Five, 10/15/22]
Right-wing media push pro-industry talking points claiming that U.S. oil producers are hindered from drilling, blame elevated gas prices solely on decisions made by Biden
Gas prices have been elevated by increased demand following the easing of pandemic restriction and by oil supply disruptions created by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Prices dipped slightly toward the end of the summer, only to rise in late September, but are currently on the downtrend once again. Aside from OPEC’s recent decision to cut supply, a refinery fire in the Midwest and facility maintenance on the West Coast have reduced inventories to record lows, and a looming European ban on Russian oil, which will take effect in December, is also contributing to price increases.
The U.S. oil industry is not being hampered by the Biden administration, as it has claimed to evade blame. In March, CEOs of major oil producers stated that they were not planning on investing in any new drilling due to pressure from investors for bigger shareholder returns. To be sure, the current climate of increased demand and global supply disruptions caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine has increased the price of oil, lavishing these companies with record profits while U.S. and global consumers have been hurt by high energy costs. In fact, U.S. oil producers are sitting on 9,000 unused drilling leases for public lands, and while right-wing media push the industry claim that Biden is suppressing domestic production, U.S. oil production on public lands is near all-time highs and is on track for record output in 2023.
- Fox Business contributor Phil Flynn: “The Biden administration has made it a very toxic country to invest in when it comes to fossil fuels.” Flynn continued, “Because already, they have canceled the Keystone Pipeline, they have slowed down the permitting process.” [Fox News, America Reports, 10/5/22]
- Podcaster and author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” Alex Epstein blamed Biden for making the U.S. “vulnerable.” Epstein said, “The Biden Administration is calling an OPEC production cut a “hostile act.” But if it hadn’t been for the hundred+ ‘hostile acts’ toward the US oil industry of President Joe ‘I guarantee you, we’re going to end fossil fuel’ Biden we wouldn’t be so vulnerable to OPEC.” [Twitter, 10/5/22]
- New York Post Editorial: “Rather than White House whining about OPEC, America needs to drill, baby, drill — but Biden refuses.” [New York Post, 10/5/22]
- Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo on America’s Newsroom: “It's not just about the leases — it is about all the rules, the regulations, the bureaucracy that this administration has put in place to stop, lessen and kill the fossil fuel industry.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/6/22]
- Fox News host Harris Faulkner claimed Biden is “suffocating” domestic oil production. “Saudi Arabia leads OPEC+ and the Biden White House has been pressuring them to do more to help us while President Biden's policies have suffocated our own oil production at home.” [Fox News, The Falkner Focus, 10/6/22]
- Fox Business anchor Larry Kudlow: “What the Bidens have done with their very extreme climate radicalism, is they’ve taken the power of energy away from the United States and given it back to the Saudis and OPEC and Russia.” [Fox News, America Reports, 10/6/22]
- Former Fox Nation host Lara Logan on Newsmax: “The Biden administration is at war with fossil fuels.” Logan continued, “You're going to go to war on fossil fuels. You're going to have idiots like that person that they have in California who bans combustion engines and that the oil producing countries are just gonna take it.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling the Balance, 10/6/22]
- Wall Street Journal: “The White House blames the industry for high gas prices while it does everything it can to make drilling more difficult and financially risky.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/6/22]
- Climate contrarian and frequent Fox News guest Michael Shellenberger: “By working against domestic oil production, it’s Biden who has allowed the Russians & Saudis to raise gas prices.” Shellenberger: “Biden just now said gas prices are ‘inching up because of what the Russians & the Saudis just did’ and ‘there's nothing beyond the capacity if we work together.’ But by working against domestic oil production, it's Biden who has allowed the Russians & Saudis to raise gas prices.” [Twitter, 10/7/22]
- Foxnews.com: “Joe Biden has hampered domestic energy industry while pleading for more foreign oil.” [Foxnews.com, 10/7/22]
- One America Newsroom host Addison Smith: “[Biden] cut the Keystone XL pipeline on day one.” He went on, saying, “He's campaigned on Green New Deal policies. He eliminated American energy independence by halting drilling on federal lands. He's always groaning about how the sun monster is going to destroy us all if we don't buy electric vehicles and stop using fossil fuels.” [OAN, In Focus, 10/7/22]
- Kelly Sadler: “They want to put the fossil fuel industry out of business.” Sadler continued, “Joe Biden campaigned on that. As a result, we are not — we're no longer energy independent. [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 10/10/22]
- Chief National Initiatives Officer at the industry-funded Texas Public Policy Institute, Chuck DeVore: “Biden’s anti-domestic energy policies have caused oil and natural gas producers to be wary of spending money to boost production. While big banks’ woke capital restrictions are gradually starving the oil and gas sector of the money needed to drill new wells.” [Foxnews.com, 10/11/22],
- On Fox News, Chuck Devore said: “They can’t have it both ways. Either they have policies that make it more difficult to produce American energy and push up energy prices, and, you know, hasten the transition to electric vehicles, or they don’t. … Let’s change the policy so that people can benefit from lower energy prices today.” [Fox News, Fox News at Night, 10/13/22]
- Fox Business reporter Ed Lawrence on The Faulkner Focus: “The first day President Biden was in office canceling the Keystone Pipeline. The war on fossil fuels. No change in policy from this White House.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 10/12/22]
- Right-wing radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity suggests that in order to stop climate alarmists Republicans need to stop Democrats from controlling the House and Senate: “Could you imagine if we don't stop the madness that is the climate alarmists, cultists New Green Deal, socialist movement? Can you imagine even a worst-case scenario where the Democrats get to control the House and Senate and they get a bigger majority in the Senate and they end the legislative filibuster? ” [Hannity Radio, 10/14/22]
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on his podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz: “If Joe Biden and Schumer and Pelosi get their way, gasoline…. is going to be $10 [per gallon] and then it’s going to be $12 then it’s going to be $20.” [Verdict with Ted Cruz, 10/14/22]
- Fox anchor Sandra Smith on America’s Newsroom suggests that Biden is blaming oil companies instead of taking responsibility for high gas prices: “It's been OPEC, it's been now the Saudis, it's been Vladimir Putin, and most recently it's also been pinning a lot of blame on the oil companies themselves. … The president has been putting the onus on the oil companies that he told he would bring the end of the fossil fuel industry to ramp up their production.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/14/22]
- Right-wing TV personality and former advisor to Trump Kimberly Guilfoyle said: “Gas prices are $1.44 higher under Joe Biden. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is at a 40-year low. Home heating costs will soar by 28% this winter. Brought to you by Joe Biden's war on American energy.” [Twitter, 10/20/22]
- American Petroleum Institute president Mike Sommers said on Mornings With Maria that the administration is being contradictory on oil production: “This is a very precarious position we're in today at a time of dramatic geopolitical upheaval… The one thing this administration has done from the very beginning is they’ve tried to do everything they could to prevent production in the United States… This administration continues to talk out of both sides of its mouth, saying they want more production but not putting more policies in place that would actually encourage more production.” [Fox News, Mornings with Maria, 10/20/22]
Right-wing media attack Biden for Strategic Petroleum Reserve use, foreign oil imports, and efforts to stabilize global oil supply
To help manage global oil prices, Biden began releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves in March. The latest release of 15 million barrels, announced on October 19, is the last of those planned releases. Right-wing media have suggested that drawing down the reserve makes the U.S. vulnerable to other disasters where the reserve would be needed to shore up supplies while doing nothing to address gas prices. As it stands, the reserves are still more than half full. The move has modestly lowered gas prices, however, experts agree it is not a long-term solution. Biden is also considering easing sanctions on Venezuela for Chevron to resume pumping oil there, allowing the country to export to U.S. and European markets.
Right-wing media has disingenuously argued that getting oil from Venezuela would be more environmentally damaging than producing more oil in the U.S., thus, increasing production domestically would be the more ethical choice. This is a common fossil fuel industry talking point that bad actors use to encourage long-term investments in expanding domestic production, meant to delay an economy-wide transition to renewable energy and ensure that we are reliant on fossil fuels for decades to come. This would be the worst possible outcome for the environment. The same individuals who praise the U.S. for having such “clean” energy production compared to other countries are also fighting against regulations implemented by the Biden administration that are meant to protect vulnerable communities and hold the industry accountable for the extensive damage it will inevitably cause to ecosystems, the climate, and public health.
- Former Trump advisor and frequent Fox News guest Stephen Miller: “You are watching an act of national sabotage, in real-time, carried out by President Biden. If a global emergency cut-off our access to foreign oil we would no longer have the strategic reserves to keep going.” [Twitter, 10/5/22]
- Conservative radio host Clay Travis: “Joe Biden’s administration is begging the totalitarian [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro regime to produce more oil — unlocking tens of billions of dollars for them in Venezuela — instead of producing more oil here.” The tweet continued, “Aside from rewarding dictators, how is it better for the environment? Of course it isn’t.” [Twitter, 10/6/22]
- Donald Trump Jr.: “The Wall Street Journal says Biden will ease sanctions on Venezuela to pump more oil but he won’t do anything to bring back American energy independence. … He will deal with the dictatorial regime but not Americans!” [Twitter, 10/6/22]
- Newsmax host Eric Bolling on Eric Bolling the Balance: “This Strategic Petroleum Reserve is supposed to be for emergencies, for wartime. Biden is using it to try and ease some of the pain at the pump. And it's not working. Prices are still going up…we're way back to Carter years.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling the Balance, 10/13/22]
- Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on Eric Bolling the Balance: “Our Strategic Petroleum Reserve that is supposed to be for legit emergencies, not these economic political games that Biden's playing. … It's that newfangled, weird, bogus green energy policy that they want to cram down our throats.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling: The Balance, 10/13/22]
- Fox host Steve Hilton on The Faulkner Focus: Democrats are “acting to prop up the Venezuelan regime.” Hilton continued, “The total basket case authoritarian regime of Maduro by trying to do an oil deal” and that this was another result of “their own stupid policies.” [Fox News, The Falkner Focus, 10/14/22]
- Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) on Fox Report with Jon Scott: “We do it cleaner so if you care about the environment, you should be rooting for American energy.” [Fox News, Fox Report with Jon Scott, 10/15/22]
- Stephen Miller suggested Biden has jeopardized U.S. security through domestic energy policy. On Twitter, Miller said, “If every POTUS who wanted lower gas prices at election time raided our emergency stockpile there would be no emergency stockpile. Biden stands alone in his corruption & dereliction. We are now sitting ducks if an adversary disrupts our supply. And Biden still won’t drill in USA.” [Twitter, 10/19/22]
- Fox’s White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich said critics doubt the efficacy of Biden’s strategy: “The president's critics worry that draining the country's emergency stockpile could leave the U.S. vulnerable in the event of a major military conflict or natural disaster. …The White House has repeatedly claimed [gas prices] in the past are out of the president's control because of external factors like Putin's war in Ukraine and more alarming to the critics the White House is prepared to draw down the reserves even lower.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/19/22]
- Fox contributor Katie Pavlich on The Story: “The continued depletion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by this president is outrageous and it is a scandal. It is a supply that is supposed to be reserved for the United States, not for Ukraine, but for the United States or in times of natural disasters. Let's not forget this administration sold millions of barrels of U.S. Reserve oil to China over the summer, so he is putting us in a crisis situation.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 10/19/22]
Right-wing media claims Biden’s negotiations to keep OPEC+ from cutting oil supply are politically motivated and even impeachable
Despite negotiations with Biden to keep oil supplies stable, OPEC+ announced on October 5 that it would cut its oil supply by 2 million barrels a day in an attempt to push the price to $100 a barrel. The White House has called the move shortsighted, while analysts have noted that it benefits Russia and could push the global economy closer to recession. Some early right-wing reactions suggested that Biden — who in response to OPEC’s decision signaled the possibility of more releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — only cared about gas prices rising because of the looming midterms elections.
On October 12, in a rare statement to U.S. media, the Saudi government echoed these sentiments by claiming that Biden asked them to delay the cuts by one month – creating a feedback loop between right-wing media and the Saudi royal family. The White House has disputed these claims.
- GOP strategist and influencer Alex Bruesewitz: “Joe Biden is emptying our strategic oil reserves ahead of the midterm elections to temporarily lower gas prices in an attempt to trick voters.” Bruesewitz also claimed this was ”another impeachable offense.” [Twitter, 10/5/22]
- Former Trump appointee and right-wing media commentator Monica Crowley wrote on Twitter said that “Biden deliberately crippled our energy sector” and drove up inflation, calling these “impeachable offenses." [Twitter, 10/5/22]
- On Facebook, right-wing outlet Breitbart pushed this message: “Of course, the Biden regime won't give a damn AFTER the election if gas prices soar, but heaven forbid they do so again BEFORE the midterm elections.” [Facebook, 10/5/22]
- On Facebook, Fox News promoted the idea that, “The president is attempting to circumvent a possible global spike in gas prices just before the midterm elections.” [Facebook, 10/5/22]
- Fox & Friends co-host Ainsely Earhardt: “He knows if price goes up again Democrats stand to lose in the elections. … Now he’s going to release these 10 million more in November when the elections are.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/6/22]
- Larry Kudlow on America Reports: “For election year political price-fixing reasons they have depleted our Strategic Petroleum Reserve.” Kudlow continued, “That is a pathetic response and it is a response that damages our national security because we are going to need that thing over time.” [Fox News, America Reports, 10/6/22]
- Sean Hannity: “[Biden’s] decision to drain our Strategic Petroleum Reserves to salvage a few votes is putting our country's national security at risk.” Hannity continued, “It is not, Joe, a national emergency when Democrats believe they are going to lose midterm elections. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/6/22]
- The Gateway Pundit: “BREAKING: Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry Confirms Joe Biden Attempted to Coerce Kingdom to Cut Oil Prices Until After Midterm Election.” [Gateway Pundit, 10/12/22]
- Alt-right commentator Jack Posobiec: “BREAKING: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirms Biden attempted to coerce them to postpone oil cuts until after the midterms, announce they have rejected his quid pro quo.” [Twitter, 10/12/22]
- Trump shill and president of conservative organization Judicial Watch Tom Fitton: “So the Biden ‘October surprise’ was to get Saudi Arabia and OPEC to put off announcement of negative oil price news until after our elections.” [Twitter, 10/12/22]
- Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro also suggested Biden was engaged in shady negotiations with Saudi Arabia for political benefit: “So Joe Biden refuses to say whether he would support cutting off arms supplies to Saudi Arabia after the Saudis rejected his request to increase oil supply in a slowing economy — a request made for a specified period of time, until right after the election.” [Twitter, 10/13/22]
- RedState: “It Sure Looks Like Joe Biden Is Trying to Blackmail Saudi Arabia to Interfere in the 2022 Election.” [RedState, 10/13/22]
- Daily Wire: “Saudi Arabia Torches Biden For Trying To Pressure OPEC Into Not Cutting Oil Production Before Midterms.” [Daily Wire, 10/13/22]
- Maria Bartiromo: “Saudi Arabia has confirmed in a statement overnight that Biden did attempt to coerce the kingdom to postpone the OPEC
+ oil production cuts until after the midterm elections.” [Fox News, Morning with Maria, 10/14/22]
- Fox Business’ Stuart Varney on Fox & Friends: “We suffer the embarrassment of watching our president beg for oil or beg the Saudis, ‘Don't cut oil yet but wait until after the November elections.’” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/14/22]
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham on The Ingraham Angle: “Now with the Biden administration attempting to pressure a foreign government to influence the outcome of the U.S. election, do you think that might be a big story?” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 10/14/22]
- Fox News correspondent Kevin Corke on the Fox & Friends First: “The diplomatic chill coming after the Saudis say, ‘Yeah, we rebuffed a White House request to delay our oil reduction plan until after the midterms.’ …The allegation has people thinking, this White House pretty much did what they accused former President Trump of doing.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 10/14/22]
- Mike Pompeo on America’s Newsroom: “This is pure politics. … Three weeks out from the election. … The point that was made earlier, we now have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a 40-year low.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 10/18/22]
- Harris Faulkner on Outnumbered: “Less than three weeks ahead of the midterm election. His critics are calling it a desperate attempt to drive down the gas prices as the economy and inflation have emerged as a concern for voters.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 10/19/22]
- The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland: “Joe Biden can’t stop spending other people’s money. Even at $72 a barrel, it will cost taxpayers over $21 billion to replace the oil he’s robbed from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for his midterm election slush fund.” [Twitter, 10/20/22]
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) Press Secretary Abigail Marone: “Saying the quiet part out loud: Biden is draining our strategic oil reserves to try and win an election.” [Twitter, 10/20/22]