'Who do they blame next?': GOP leader rips Pelosi for blaming soaring gas prices on oil companies

"Americans aren't buying these excuses, but unfortunately they are paying for them," Rep. Kevin McCarthy said Friday.

Updated: March 19, 2022 - 11:37pm

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House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday for blaming U.S. oil companies for the sticker shock Americans are facing at the pump.

"Who do they blame next?" the California Republican said. "Americans aren't buying these excuses, but unfortunately they are paying for them."

Pelosi said gas companies should "boost production" during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"There are 6,000 permits out there where people could drill, the industry can drill," Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday. "They don't need to be upending our initiatives to save the planet from the climate crisis; if they want to drill, they have places to drill. Use it or lose it. Let somebody else drill there."

The approval of domestic drilling permits has decreased under the Biden administration. As of February 2022, the Biden administration stopped issuing new permits.

McCarthy was asked if there is merit to the Democrats' argument that oil and gas companies are allowing prices to remain high even though the price of a barrel of oil has dropped below $100.

"It just begins to go to show how they don't understand the industry," he replied. "Things don't change overnight. You've got to produce the oil. You sell the oil. You have to refine the oil and you pass it through."

McCarthy told reporters that leading Democrats have been saying since the 2020 election cycle that they wanted to stop the production of oil on public lands.

"Joe Biden, in his campaign for president, said he would eliminate the production of crude," he said. "You then had on the very first day when he got into office ending a pipeline. So you add transportation to that, and when inflation goes up, if you can't move it by a pipeline, you've got to put it in a truck, or you've got to put it in a tanker if you bring it from somewhere else — that costs a lot more, you can't get things off the port, so they raised the price themselves."

McCarthy recalled a past House hearing with oil and gas CEOs where Democratic members asked them why they aren't pledging to reduce oil production. "So now they want to turn around and blame them," he said. "When you shut in a well, you can't turn it right back on, it's not a light switch.

McCarthy responded directly to Democratic leaders like Pelosi who are saying that drilling leases aren't being used while gas prices rise.

"Do you understand the market? You get a lease, it takes you 3 to 7 years to develop it, and there's no guarantee there's oil or gas underneath it," he said.

McCarthy noted that some Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee support curbing the amount of lending to the fossil fuel industry

"Then [oil companies] go to [their] banker to try to get the capital to go, but the majority committee is going after the capital not to loan you the money," he said. "I've never seen anything like this."

There is a bipartisan effort in the Senate to increase domestic oil production.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said the oil industry needs needs "signals" from the Biden Administration that they will support oil and gas development and production on federal and non-federal lands. He wants Biden to end the pause on new drilling leases. 

"It is well past time for the pause to end — for well drillers and the administration to move forward," Manchin said. "So yes, I'm calling on industry — and the shareholders — to invest and put production before profits. We need you to ramp up on those existing leases and with those existing permits because that's the fastest thing we can do. But industry also needs signals from the administration that they will support oil and gas development and production."

Senate Natural Resources Committee Member Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) shared a similar view on increasing oil production in the U.S.

"Our best response to rising gas prices should be increasing our domestic energy production from all sources and increasing trade with our allies, not buying from dictators who are actively invading sovereign nations," he said.

McCarthy also said if Democrats cared about the environment, then they would embrace American natural gas.

"American natural gas is 41% cleaner than Russian natural gas," he said. "They [Democrats] made their platform to put the oil industry out of business in America and increase the business of Russia, Iran and Venezuela." 

Just the News asked the American Petroleum Institute for their response to Pelosi's message to oil and gas companies.

"We are at a two decade high for the percentage of leases in production, with nearly two out of three leases producing natural gas and oil," said API SVP of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola. "Leases are issued prior to exploration, and not every acreage of leased land has resources to tap into, despite substantial investments by developers.

"With production still below pre-pandemic levels and an imbalance between supply and demand that is being exacerbated by the Russian invasion into Ukraine, it's time for the administration to support domestic production and send a message that America is open for energy investment."