(Bloomberg) – Senior Biden administration officials pressed executives of some of America’s largest gasoline producers to cut overseas sales in a tense meeting on Friday afternoon, suggesting that without voluntary action , the government could force industry to store more fuel in US tanks.

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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other administration officials have chastised industry officials for low diesel inventories, raising the possibility of export limits and the requirement for oil companies to hold minimum fuel stocks in the United States, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. describing the private virtual meeting.

It was the latest in a series of meetings between the Biden administration and oil companies this year, as the White House seeks to cut energy costs that contribute to high inflation. A previous session in June saw more vigorous conversation about the market and hurricane preparedness, the people said.

Read more: Oil CEOs get olive branch from Granholm in gas price caucus

In addition to Granholm, the session included representatives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Marathon Petroleum Corp., Phillips 66 and Shell Plc, as well as National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Amos Hochstein, senior energy adviser at the Department of State, according to someone familiar with the matter.

Although the session was framed as a discussion of refining operations and fuel supply in the aftermath of Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, the storms were not the main focus, the people said. Instead, the discussion focused on lower than normal fuel inventories, with diesel inventories 20% lower than their five-year average.

“The President’s team stressed that energy companies with record profits, record exports and record inventories need to step up and drive down prices at the pumps,” the Energy Department said in a mailed statement. electronic.

Administration officials highlighted concerns over rising petroleum product exports and complained that companies were raking in high profits while failing to tackle low fuel inventories, the people said.

At least one administration official also raised the prospect of a minimum inventory requirement, under which refiners or other participants in the U.S. fuel supply chain could be forced to stockpile more fuel. gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products in the domestic market. The details of such an inventory requirement were not discussed, including how it might be implemented, which companies would bear the burden of compliance, and how much supply might be sufficient.

The swap comes amid growing concerns over relatively low fuel stocks – including diesel – in the northeastern United States, which relies on imports to meet demand. The closure of refineries on the East Coast, in Canada and in the Caribbean has exacerbated the region’s dependence on European supplies.

Analysts say gasoline, diesel and other refined products from the Gulf Coast cannot fully fill the void, given pipeline capacity constraints and available U.S.-flagged vessels allowed to deliver the fuel between national ports.

Read more: New York’s fuel supply is so low it triggered White House warning

Oil industry trade groups said the administration’s approach was flawed.

“The goal of this administration should not be to trap product in the United States or divert fuel from retail sales to storage, but rather to figure out how to better produce and cost-effectively move American product to the United States. United,” the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute said in a joint statement.

President Joe Biden has warned twice this week against oil companies raising gas prices in the wake of hurricanes. Although gasoline prices have fallen by more than a dollar a gallon on average in the United States since the peak in June, they remain relatively high. The average price of regular unleaded has risen for 10 straight days and was at $3.797 per gallon on Thursday, according to AAA data.

The White House has taken a series of actions this year to drive down fuel prices, including an unprecedented release of crude from the US emergency stockpile. Last month, the administration warned refiners it could take “emergency measures” to deal with fuel exports amid low inventories.

Read: Lower gas prices blunt GOP weapon ahead of midterms

Shortly before Friday’s meeting, Granholm said in a statement that energy companies were making record profits and refiners and retailers were passing the costs on to consumers.

“Now is the time for U.S. energy companies to take action to lower prices for consumers and replenish gasoline and diesel inventories in this country that are below the five-year range,” he said. she declared.

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