President Biden has urged oil and natural-gas companies to ramp up production, and you’d think, given the current high prices, that it would be in their interest to do so. But the industry has been slow to respond, with some justification. Companies expect that as soon as the current turmoil subsides, the Biden administration will shift back to hostile rhetoric, anti-energy legislative proposals, and oppositional regulatory policies.
Oil and gas prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange are at five-year highs. But many publicly traded producers are pursuing a strategy that looks like “orderly liquidation”—only maintaining or modestly increasing production volumes. Meanwhile, they are returning significant cash to shareholders in dividends and share repurchases.