John Kerry Rebukes Oil Companies for Increasing Production. The President Has Been Pressing Them for Months To Do Just That.

Biden's energy czar urges BP, Chevron to 'take stock of the science' after companies announce oil and gas investments

John Kerry
John Kerry (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
March 8, 2023

Biden administration climate czar John Kerry is criticizing oil companies over plans to increase production even as President Joe Biden has spent months pleading with them to do just that to fight high gas prices.

Kerry told Axios that he called the CEO of BP to express discontent with the energy giant's plan to increase its oil and gas investments by $8 billion in the next seven years. Kerry also noted his "concern" over a Chevron initiative to increase oil production in the southwestern United States to 300,000 barrels a day. The climate official went on to urge those companies to "take stock … of where the science is today" and recognize that increased fossil fuel production is at odds with global climate change goals.

Kerry's remarks reflect the conflict between the Biden administration's short- and long-term energy policy goals. Biden in 2020 promised to "end fossil fuel," and after taking office, the Democrat canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and slowed new oil leasing to its lowest level since World War II. But last summer, when the average price for a gallon of gas in the United States hit $5 for the first time ever, Biden changed his tune and urged the industry to ramp up production. 

Biden continued those calls through the 2022 midterm elections as the Democrat looked to avoid political blame for Americans' pain at the pump, and he even assailed the oil industry for what he called a failure to "increase domestic production and keep gas prices down" during his February State of the Union address. Many U.S. oil companies, however, say that the Biden administration's hostility toward fossil fuels made them hesitant to invest big money in new drilling operations. Kerry, for example, has acknowledged that the administration is working to reduce demand for oil and gas, most notably through the tens of billions of dollars it's invested in electric vehicle subsidies and manufacturing rebates.

Daniel Turner, founder and executive director of energy advocacy group Power the Future, attacked the Biden administration for its "complete inconsistency when it comes to oil and gas policies." 

"The issue is they don't know what their energy policy is. Are they beholden to John Kerry and the environmentalists, or are they concerned with the economic stability and security of the American people?" Turner said. "And while the Biden administration is playing all of these political games with the oil and gas industry, the American people are the ones suffering."

The White House did not return a request for comment. Kerry's office declined to answer questions on how the climate official's comments square with Biden's calls to increase oil production.

While Kerry has pressed oil and gas companies to help the administration fight the "climate crisis," his role as Biden's climate czar has seen the former senator take gas-guzzling flights to luxury destinations around the world. From March 2021 to June 2022 alone, Kerry flew nearly 200,000 miles—the equivalent of traveling around the world more than seven times—to fight climate change, the Washington Free Beacon reported in September. Those flights produced 9.54 million pounds of carbon, roughly 300 times the average American's carbon footprint for an entire year.

Months later, in November, Kerry attended an international climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, an Egyptian resort town known for its long beaches and luxury resorts. In February, meanwhile, the Biden climate official jetted off to the Caribbean to "advance international cooperation among nations particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis," a mission that took Kerry to Atlantis Paradise Island, a lush five-star resort in the Bahamas that boasts 14 swimming pools, 14 lagoons, dozens of luxury restaurants, a yacht marina, a private golf course, a world-class casino with more than 700 slot machines, at least 3 nightclubs, and a movie theater. 

Still, Kerry has taken action to reduce his carbon footprint on at least one occasion. Last summer, his family sold their private jet—which flew for more than 60 hours during Kerry's time as climate czar—to a New York City hedge fund.