Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members are reportedly considering a boost in oil production just days after the Biden administration said it favors shielding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from civil litigation related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A production increase of up to 500,000 barrels a day is under discussion for OPEC+’s Dec. 4 meeting, delegates said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The increase in production would help offset the effects of the embargo on Russian oil that the European Union and other industrialized nations are set to announce on Dec. 5.
However, a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, denied the Journal’s report, saying that OPEC+ may resolve to cut oil production instead.
The Post has sought comment from the Saudi government and the White House.
The Biden administration said last week that the crown prince, known as MBS, should be shielded from a lawsuit over his suspected role in the killing of Khashoggi, who was a US-based columnist for the Washington Post.
The administration spoke out in support of a claim of legal immunity from MBS, who also recently took the title of prime minister, against a suit brought by Khashoggi’s fiancée and by the rights group Khashoggi founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now.
“Jamal died again today,” Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted after the US filing late Thursday in her lawsuit.
The US government’s finding of immunity for MBS is non-binding, and a judge will ultimately decide whether to grant immunity. But it angered rights activists and risked blowback from Democratic lawmakers.
Biden had long pledged to hold MBS accountable for Khashoggi’s death. The president told reporters in July that the Saudi royal proclaimed to him that he was “not personally responsible” for Khashoggi’s killing.
“I indicated I thought he was,” Biden said.
Last month, OPEC+ slashed oil production by some 2 million barrels a day — thumbing its nose at the Biden administration after the president and MBS were photographed giving each other a fist bump over the summer.
The White House was keen to get oil-producing states to ramp up production ahead of the recent midterm elections — particularly as rising gas prices were viewed as a vulnerability for Democrats.
While Democrats did lose control of the House of Representatives, they performed better than expected in Senate races — enabling them to hold on to their razor-thin majority in the upper chamber.
The Biden administration’s relationship with MBS and the Saudi government has been frosty from the outset.