Senator gets tough with banks for refusing loans to oil and gas


An Alaska U.S. Senator who supports Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe’s call for a Commerce Department investigation of Saudi Arabia and its sending of oil to the U.S. is now targeting banks who won’t make loans to oil and gas companies.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska told POLITICO that Republicans plan to send a warning letter to the banks who refuse financial support for Arctic oil drilling projects.

The banks will be warned that ruling out specific fossil fuel projects such as oil drilling in the newly opened Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also comes with risks.

The letter follows pledges in recent months by Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup that they would not invest in Arctic drilling projects, amid pressure to address climate change and protect sensitive lands. Bank of America is the sole major holdout.

“You think this is a cost-free action? Let’s see about that,” Sullivan said of the banks in an interview last week. “The federal government fully supports these guys across the board in so many ways, including a bailout 15 years ago. Now they get to pick and choose who’s favored and who’s not favored in the U.S. economy based on what? Political pressure that they get at cocktail parties in Manhattan?”

— Sullivan, a first-term Republican up for reelection this year, also told POLITICO there had been a “definite rethink” among his congressional colleagues about the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia following the kingdom’s recent oil market war with Russia that helped send oil prices into a free fall and has devastated domestic U.S. oil companies. He said he supports imposing tariffs on imported Saudi Arabian oil, and joined a call with Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday to press for a Section 232 investigation.

In addition, Sullivan is pressing for the world’s industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to fill their own strategic reserves with oil, a move he said could take 2.5 million barrels a day off the market for about the next three to four months. “If everybody, including China, tops off their strategic petroleum reserves, that could be … another 250 million barrels off the global market,” he said.