Is that the message that French president Emmanuel Macron gave Joe Biden after buttonhooking him at the G-7 summit? According to Newsweek and video clips making the rounds on social media, it does appear that Macron cast a lot of cold water on Biden’s attempt to alleviate his oil crisis by getting OPEC producers other than Russia to goose output. Don’t bother asking the UAE, Macron tells Biden, and the Saudis can’t do anything more until the end of the year at the earliest:
Imagine what will happen if there’s no spare capacity! Here we have Macron exited to report his misinterpreted tidbit to Biden who also doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on. #OOTT pic.twitter.com/kskCplLrya
— Amena Bakr (@Amena__Bakr) June 27, 2022
“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt,” Macron said as he approached Biden on the sidelines of the summit, according to a clip posted on Twitter.
Macron appeared to tell Biden that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had told him that both the UAE and Saudi Arabia could not substantially increase oil production.
“He told me two things,” Macron told Biden. “One, I’m at a maximum, maximum… what he claims.”
“Second, the Saudis can increase a little bit, by 150 [thousands barrels per day] or a little bit more, but they don’t have huge capacities at least before six months’ time.”
The UAE, as Newsweek noted, said the same thing publicly yesterday as well, so this isn’t protected diplomatic communications. The Saudis have been cool all along to demands for higher production, not just for capacity reasons but also because Riyadh had grown angry with Biden’s rhetoric about making the Saudis a “pariah nation” while playing footsie with Iran. Biden has since recalculated his policy back toward the Sunnis, but that doesn’t mean that the Saudis can ramp up production quickly enough to help Biden out of a political jam at home.
Michael Shellenberger heard the same thing from the clip as Newsweek, and speculated as to why Macron made a point of telling Biden this in front of a pack of journalists, even sotto voce:
Macron is a canny politician. If he had wanted the information to remain secret, he likely wouldn’t have shared it within listening distance of the sensitive microphones of journalists. We should be grateful to @EmmanuelMacron for his supposed carelessness. pic.twitter.com/0hub8LRIBq
— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) June 27, 2022
That may be assuming facts not in evidence. After all, Macron interrupted another discussion taking place in full view and earshot of journalists in order to update Biden on these developments. It doesn’t appear that the G-7 world leaders care much about discretion while out in the open. Nor, in this case, did Macron’s updates amount to much of a secret anyway.
What is incontrovertible, however, is that the only free-world source of oil and natural gas with enough proven reserves and economic capacity to change the course of energy prices is the United States. Rather than change directions on energy policy to not only help American consumers but also operate strategically to cut Russian income off of oil sales, Biden has instead gone begging to Venezuela for production increases, promising to reduce sanctions in exchange for some relief. Not that it would make much difference, as our refining capacity has shrunk enough to ensure that any significant new imports would get bottlenecked anyway.
Still, Macron may have buttonholed Biden with this information to make sure he knew that those paths to strategic influence on oil are more or less useless. Macron is every inch the climate warrior that Biden is — he ran for re-election this year on the basis of making France “the first major nation to abandon gas, oil and coal,” after all. It seems doubtful that Macron whispered “Drill baby drill!” into Biden’s ear as they moved inside, but he clearly doesn’t seem opposed to getting more production in the short run, either. Even Macron has to understand that sitting on these massive reserves in the US while Russia uses high oil prices to fund its war of imperial aggression is flat-out insane.
Too bad Biden hasn’t figured that out yet.
Addendum: Later today, I’ll have an interview with API president/CEO Mike Sommers on my TEMS podcast to discuss what a sane energy policy looks like for the US. We also discuss Waterworld, too. Don’t miss it.