U.S. oil producers are not able to increase supply to tame soaring crude prices that remain “under OPEC control”, according to the shale patch’s biggest operator.

Brent crude jumped to a three-year price high above $80/bbl last week, sparking fears of a deepening global energy crunch that has already pushed natural gas and coal prices in Europe and Asia to record highs.

But Scott Sheffield, CEO of Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources, said America’s once-prolific shale producers would keep using their burgeoning cash piles to pay shareholders, not fund new drilling.

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