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Biden administration thanks Saudi Arabia and OPEC for increasing oil supply

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The White House on Thursday thanked Saudi Arabia and OPEC for the more-than-expected oil release as high gas prices plague the US and President Joe Biden considers a trip to Riyadh.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to increase its production by more than 200,000 barrels per day, the Wall Street Journal reported. Gas prices in the United States continue to hit record levels with seven states now averaging $5 or higher per gallon.

At Thursday’s meeting between OPEC and 10 non-OPEC producers, the group known as OPEC+ agreed to increase production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August. Previously, production was around 400,000 barrels per day.

The Biden administration praised the move.

“The United States welcomes today’s important decision by OPEC+ to increase supply by more than 200,000 barrels per day in July and August based on new market conditions,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“This announcement hastens the end of the current quota regime in place since July last year and brings forward the monthly production increase previously planned in September.”

“We recognize Saudi Arabia’s role as OPEC+ president and its largest producer in achieving this consensus among group members. We also recognize the efforts and positive contributions of the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq. The United States will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to address pressures on energy prices,” she said.

White House thanked Saudi Arabia and OPEC for more-than-expected oil release as high gas prices plague the US and President Joe Biden considers a trip to Riyadh

Biden is under pressure to do something about high gas prices in the US - the national average for a gallon of gas is $4,671 for regular unleaded gas

Biden is under pressure to do something about high gas prices in the US – the national average for a gallon of gas is $4,671 for regular unleaded gas

The move comes as President Bidenis plans to visit Saudi Arabia.

But such a trip would bring him face-to-face with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler whom Biden called a murderer after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The White House is considering a visit that will also include a meeting of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, a well-known person with the White House planning, told the Associated Press.

Biden is expected to sit down with MBS on such a stop, which could be linked to the president’s expected attendance at the G7 and NATO meetings in Europe later this month.

Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Wednesday on whether Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia.

But the president’s administration is under intense pressure to address high gas prices, which are hitting Americans’ pockets and hurting Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The national average for a gallon of gas is $4,671 for regular unleaded gas as of June 1, while diesel gas prices are $5.54 per gallon.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter. But relations between Washington and Riyadh were tense during Biden’s presidency.

Biden has openly criticized MBS and its reportedly brutal regime. Tensions have also grown over human rights, the war in Yemen and US arms supplies to the kingdom.

At the start of his presidency, Biden had said he would only speak to the aging King Salman instead of MBS, the heir apparent.

But the administration has been working behind the scenes on smooth relationships.

And increasing Saudi oil production has been a central element in talks over a possible Biden visit.

Brett McGurk, the National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East, and Amos Hochstein, a senior energy security adviser at the State Department, were recently in the Gulf region trying to pave a path forward.

President Biden is considering a trip to Saudi Arabia, but should meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (above), whom he has called a murderer

President Biden is considering a trip to Saudi Arabia, but should meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (above), whom he has called a murderer

Saudi Arabia is a member of OPEC, the powerful bloc of 13 countries that together control 40% of global oil production.

Russia is a member of OPEC+. It is one of the world’s three largest oil producers, along with Saudi Arabia and the US

Moscow is working to keep its alliance with OPEC strong. In 2016, it joined OPEC to form OPEC+, a combined group that controls half of the world’s oil supply.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks regularly with MBS.

OPEC’s decision comes the day after the European Union agreed to a partial ban on Russian oil purchases. The US has banned all Russian oil.

The string of sanctions that followed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Russian oil production to fall by 700,000 barrels a day over the past two months.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia was pumping 11.3 million barrels a day, about 11% of global supplies.

Russian oil is one of the biggest sources of income for Putin’s government.

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