President Joe Biden on Wednesday derided Republican criticisms that his plan to release millions of gallons of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) was a politically motivated effort to drive down energy prices ahead of the midterms.

“What is your response to Republicans who say you are only doing this SPR release to help Democrats in the midterms?” a reporter asked Biden on Wednesday, per Fox News. “Where have they been the last four months? That’s my response,” he retorted.

“Is it politically motivated, sir, three weeks before the midterms?” another reporter asked him of the plan.

“No, it’s not. Look, it makes sense. I’ve been doing this for how long now? It’s not politically motivated at all,” he responded. “It’s motivated to make sure that I continue to push on what I’ve been pushing on. And that is making sure there’s enough oil that’s being pumped by the companies so that we have the ability to be able to produce enough gas that we need here at home, oil we need here at home, and the same time, keep moving in the direction of providing for alternative energy.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing. Now, the problem is these guys were asleep, I don’t know where they have been, and they seem — the price at the pump should reflect what the price of a barrel of oil costs, and it’s not going down consistently,” he continued.

Reports emerged this week that the Biden administration planned to release up to 15 million gallons from the SPR to drive down energy prices. The administration previously released 10 million gallons in the immediate aftermath of a major production cut from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+). He has also routinely tapped the reserve throughout the year to help stabilize fuel prices amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Republicans and industry experts alike have accused the president of using the SPR as a political backstop to counter adverse economic conditions that might work against him politically. U.S. Oil and Gas Association President Tim Stewart, for example, said Biden was using the SPR “as a campaign credit card to buy down political risk for the midterms.”

Biden, however, has asserted that his use of the SPR is in fact bringing down prices and called his policy a “responsible use” of the reserve. “Independent analysts have confirmed that drawdowns in reserve so far have played a big role in bringing down oil prices, bringing them down. So we’re going to continue the responsible use of that national asset,” he asserted, per PBS.

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