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Biden Slams Big Oil's 'War Profiteering'

FILE - The handle from a gasoline pump hangs from the filler neck of a motorist's vehicle at a Shell station. Taken July 31, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. Gas prices have fallen in recent months, easing the strain on U.S. family budgets, but the White House wants lower prices still.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday called on oil and gas companies to use their record profits to lower costs and increase production or face paying a higher tax rate, as Americans grapple with soaring inflation and an election looms.

Biden said if oil and gas companies don't invest their profits in lowering costs for Americans and increase production, he will urge Congress to consider requiring oil companies to pay tax penalties.

“If they don’t, they’re going to pay a higher tax on their excess profits, and face other restrictions,” he said. The White House will work with Congress to look at these options and others. “It’s time for these companies to stop war profiteering.”

His comments at the White House came after oil giants reported bumper earnings reflecting a boost from a surge in crude prices after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Global energy giants including Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N and Chevron Corp CVX.N posted another round of huge quarterly profits, benefiting from surging natural gas and fuel prices that have boosted inflation around the world and led to fresh calls to further tax the sector.

“Their profits are a windfall of war,” Biden said of the conflict that is ravaging Ukraine, and they have a responsibility to act.

“I think it’s outrageous,” he said. If they passed those profits on to consumers, gasoline prices would be down about 50 cents, he said.

The price of gasoline and overall high inflation are a political stumbling block for Democratic congressional candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans are favored to take command of the House of Representatives, while the Senate is viewed as a toss-up.

The White House for months has been considering congressional proposals that could tax oil and gas producers' profits as consumers struggling with higher energy prices.

Whether Democrats or Republicans take control of Congress, passing a law taxing energy companies for excess profits would likely be difficult, energy experts believe.