Biden to push G20 energy producers to boost capacity, ease price pressures

By Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason

ROME (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday will urge major G20 energy producers with spare capacity to boost production to ensure a stronger global economic recovery, a senior administration official said ahead of a summit bringing together leaders of the world’s largest economies.

Biden and other Group of 20 leaders are slated to discuss efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic and agree on a new task force to improve coordination and planning to prevent the next one. They also expect to endorse an agreement backed by more than 130 countries to establish a new global minimum tax.

But members are divided on other issues. With oil and gas prices surging, some energy-producing countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia have not boosted output enough to satisfy countries that are largely consumers of energy and worry about energy shortages and inflation.

Biden’s top advisers have voiced concerns about energy suppliers not boosting production enough to meet surging demand.

Rocketing natural gas prices, with the European benchmark up almost 600% this year, have been fuelled by low inventories and surging demand as economies recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised similar issues during a visit to Brussels this month, singling out Russia for its “history of using energy as a tool of coercion, as a political weapon.”

Russia, a major natural gas supplier to Europe, and its energy giant Gazprom are being urged to do more to ease prices in the spot market.

“It’s a delicate time in the global economy, and what’s important is that global energy supplies keep up with global energy demand,” the senior administration official said.

“There are major energy producers that have spare capacity, and we’re encouraging them to use to ensure a stronger, more sustainable recovery across the world,” the official said, without naming any specific countries.

The official said G20 leaders would not specifically target the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which includes Saudi Arabia, or set any targets for energy production.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the summit in person, but is expected to participate virtually.

Comments from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak earlier this month sparked fresh tensions over the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline, which Washington has long opposed and which is now awaiting clearance from a German regulator.

Novak said clearing the pipeline could help ease shortfalls, sparking concerns that Russia has failed to boost its production of gas – now delivered via land-based pipelines – precisely to put pressure on Europe to approve Nord Stream 2.

During their talks on the economy, G20 leaders will also back an agreement reached by more than 130 countries on a global minimum corporate tax of 15% that will reshape the world economy and could result in some $60 billion in additional tax revenues per year for the United States alone, the official said.

“The deal is a testament to American diplomacy and leadership,” the official said, noting that Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had worked hard to secure the agreement.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason; Editing by David Gregorio)

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