US Rep. Ro Khanna is calling for the White House to retaliate against Saudi Arabia if OPEC and its allies slash oil production in a bid to boost prices.
“This is beyond the pale,” the California Democrat told CNN in a phone interview on Monday. “They are actively fleecing the American people and destabilizing the economy. That’s just outrageous. Who do they think they are?”
Oil prices surged more than 5% Monday on reports that Saudi-led OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, plan to sharply cut oil output by more than 1 million barrels per day. Such a move would be the largest production cuts since 2020 and could be announced on Wednesday when the group meets in Vienna.
“It’s outrageous. The Saudis need to be dealt with harshly,” said Khanna, a progressive who has been a tough critic of the kingdom’s humanitarian track record. “They are a third-rate power. We are the most powerful country in the world. I don’t know why we kowtow to them.”
Specifically, Khanna called on US President Joe Biden to make it clear to Saudi Arabia that the United States will cut off the kingdom’s aviation parts supply and prevent Raytheon and Boeing from selling to them.
Khanna, who chairs the House subcommittee on the environment, said OPEC production cuts will strengthen Russia and Vladimir Putin and weigh on consumers in the United States and Europe.
“They are not our allies,” Khanna said of Saudi Arabia. “They are hurting the American people. And we need to be tough with them. The president needs to make it clear we will cut off their supply. We could ground their air force in a day.”
The Saudi embassy to the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment on what OPEC+ may or may not do, noting the United States is not a party to the producer group.
“Our focus has been on taking every step to ensure markets are sufficiently supplied to meet demand for a growing global economy. Thanks to the President’s efforts, energy prices have declined sharply from their highs and American consumers are paying far less at the pump,” the White House spokesperson said.
Indeed, oil prices have plunged in recent months for a variety of reasons, including the Biden administration’s unprecedented release of emergency oil, recession fears and fewer disruptions to Russia’s oil flows than feared.
Oil prices have tumbled so much that some analysts expect OPEC+ to respond by coming to the rescue with sharp production cuts this week. Such a move could lift prices at the gas pump.
Gasoline prices have stopped sinking, with the national average for a gallon of regular rising by 13 cents over the past two weeks.
In California, gas prices are nearing record highs. A gallon of regular now sells for an average of $6.38 in the state, up 58 cents in the past week and $1.13 in the past month, according to AAA. The record high for California was set in June at $6.44 a gallon.
“I’m very concerned,” Khanna said, referring to the near-record price of gasoline in his state. “I’ve been hearing almost nonstop for the past nine months from my constituents about how much gas is.”
The Democrat criticized Biden’s shifting stance on Saudi Arabia, noting he opposed the president’s visit to the kingdom over the summer. Khanna said he wishes Biden would follow through on his campaign promise to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah state.”
Khanna argued the United States has considerable leverage over Saudi Arabia and is not nearly as dependent on the kingdom as it was decades ago.
“Our policymakers are stuck in the 1970s,” he said.