U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his disappointment Thursday that OPEC+ nations intend to cut oil production targets by 2 million barrels a day but said the United States has alternatives and is exploring them.
'There's a lot of alternatives. We haven't made up our minds yet,' Biden told reporters at the White House, without elaborating.
Wednesday's decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Russia and other oil producers, to cut production targets could help Moscow fund its war in Ukraine and hurt Biden's chances to further cut gasoline prices for American motorists ahead of next month's nationwide congressional elections.
Opposition Republicans have blamed Biden and fellow Democrats for the higher gas prices as they try to wrest control from Democrats of one or both chambers of Congress.
In a July trip to the Mideast, Biden had pushed Saudi Arabia, the world's second-biggest oil producer after the U.S., to hold the line against a production cut or even boost output to the global crude oil market to keep oil prices, which directly correlate to the price motorists pay for gasoline at service stations, from increasing.
Biden said, however, that he did not regret his stopover in Riyadh to meet with Saudi leaders.
'The trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and ... rationalization of positions,' he said, while acknowledging the OPEC+ production cut 'is a disappointment."
FILE - In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Al-Salam palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022.
Biden made the trip to Saudi Arabia even though during his presidential campaign in 2020 he branded the longtime U.S. ally as a "pariah" state for its role in the killing and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, at the hands of Saudi agents in the country's Istanbul Consulate in 2018.
One of Biden's key congressional allies, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, voiced a more critical view of Saudi Arabia than Biden in the immediate aftermath of the oil production target cut.
"From unanswered questions about 9/11 & the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, to conspiring w/ Putin to punish the US w/higher oil prices, the royal Saudi family has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation," Durbin said on Twitter. "It's time for our foreign policy to imagine a world without their alliance."
Durbin's 9/11 reference was to the 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people. Fifteen of the 19 airline hijackers who carried out the attacks were Saudi nationals.
Three Democratic members of the House of Representatives, Tom Malinowski, Sean Casten and Susan Wild, called for an end to U.S. troop protection of Persian Gulf allies.
"If Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to help [Russian President Vladimir] Putin keep oil prices high, they should look to him for their defense," the three lawmakers said.
Despite Biden's diplomatic overtures in recent months to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, they said, "they have now answered ... with a slap in the face that will hurt American consumers and undermine our national interests."
The OPEC+ coalition of 23 nations said the production cut, from 43.8 million barrels a day to 41.8 million, would take effect in November. It is the first time OPEC has cut oil production targets since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, although the coalition of oil-producing countries has been undershooting its target by 3 million barrels a day this year.
FILE - An employee rides a bicycle past oil tanks at the Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia.
With the production cut, the oil producers are hoping to curb the drop in world crude prices, which surged past $100 a barrel earlier this year but had fallen 32% in the last four months before increasing again in recent days in anticipation of the OPEC announcement.
With the drop in the price of crude over the summer months, gasoline station pump prices fell in the U.S., which in turn boosted Biden's job approval rating as the country heads to the nationwide congressional elections on November 8.
A year ago in the U.S., gas prices averaged $3.20 a gallon (3.78 liters), and in some states fell to nearly that low in recent months. But now, with crude oil prices rising again, the national average is at $3.87 a gallon, according to the American Automobile Association.
While U.S. motorists are pinched by higher gas costs, Russia relies on gas and oil sales for a large portion of its budget to help fund its war in Ukraine. It supported the production cut, which will enable Moscow to sell oil for higher prices on the global market.