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The head of America’s largest shale oil operator has hit back at White House claims that his industry is acting against the national interest by failing to accelerate drilling, saying it could lead to dwindling energy supplies.

Scott Sheffield, CEO of Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources, said investing profits in faster production growth at the expense of shareholder returns would cause investors to flee and leave the sector at the “bottom end” of the stock market.

His comments came after White House chief energy adviser Amos Hochstein told the Financial Times that it was “un-American” for companies to pay back record profits from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine to shareholders. He urged operators to “seize the moment” by pumping more oil to offset the market disruption.

Hochstein echoed the words of President Joe Biden, who criticized the industry for “profiteering” from the conflict, as rising oil and gas prices allow them to reap record revenues.

But Sheffield said using the windfall to get back on track with the shale boom would destroy the industry’s efforts to win back investors who fled the patch during a decade of debt-ridden drilling.

“You have to understand that when you get a 2 percent return on capital employed, you’re at the bottom of the S&P 500,” Sheffield said in an interview. “And so if we end up doing what he’s asking us to do, we’re going to be at the very bottom of the S&P 500.”

The standoff between Washington and oil companies continues after Russia’s sweeping incursion in February sent oil and gas prices soaring, fueling rampant inflation as motorists paid record prices at the pump.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil and gas stocks have outperformed other sectors this year as operators use the windfall to pay juicy dividends and strengthen balance sheets rather than increase drilling.

U.S. oil production is about 12 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration, well below the record high of 13 million barrels per day in 2019. Next year, the increase will be about 500,000 bpd.

Sheffield said Hochstein also doesn’t account for supply chain shortfalls, which means that even with Wall Street’s blessing, any significant increase in production would be very expensive and take years to materialize.

“He criticized the big and independent ones for not growing more. He doesn’t realize that if we wanted to grow more than 5 percent, I would have to call all the contractors. they will charge me 30-40 percent more. it will take a year to create new equipment; it will take two years to show results. Then you can go through a collapse in oil prices,” Sheffield said.

The White House has sought to boost investment in drilling by pledging to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which it has depleted this year in an effort to lower oil prices when spot crude has fallen below $70 a barrel.

On Friday, the administration announced plans to start the process, saying it would provide companies with “guarantees” to increase drilling.

But Sheffield said $70 a barrel was too low because producers were focused on prices that would reach $65 a barrel in five years.

“Putting a $70 tax doesn’t help the manufacturer at all,” he said. “If they want to encourage additional activity, they’re going to have to put a floor around $100, especially with the significant increase in maintenance costs.”

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