President Joe Biden’s decision to release up to 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is an abuse aimed at using the world’s largest such resource to protect vulnerable Democrats from voter wrath over high gas prices.
That’s the view of a host of congressional Republicans reacting to the Chief Executive’s move to release the crude oil from what was originally intended by Congress to be used only in a national emergency—such as a war in which America lost access to foreign energy sources.
Biden’s 15 million barrels this week represents the last part of the 180 million barrel total release he authorized in March. He also authorized a 50 million barrel release in 2021 as the price at the pump for gasoline and diesel began skyrocketing from the $2.17 average per gallon in 2020 during the final year of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Gas prices peaked at $5.32 per gallon in June 2022 and more recently are averaging $3.81 per gallon, according to data compiled by the Energy Information Administration.
A few Democrats on Capitol Hill are praising Biden, but for the most part members of the president’s political party are keeping quiet on the decision that comes as the latest polls show a decisive edge to Republicans with the midterm elections just three weeks away.
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was built for a national energy crisis—not for a Democrat election crisis,” said Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“Joe Biden is draining our emergency oil supply to a 40-year low. His dismal approval rating is not a justifiable reason to continue to raid our nation’s oil reserves. The surest way to bring down energy prices is to unleash American energy production,” Barrasso said in a statement.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the Senate panel’s chairman, has not reacted on the record to the Biden decision, but the West Virginian encouraged the president in an October 12 statement to relax his restrictions on domestic energy production.
“It is unconscionable for America, with our abundant natural resources that can be produced cleaner than anywhere else in the world, to continue relying or consider increasing reliance on authoritarian regimes to do for us what we can do for ourselves.
“I urge you to take all actions within your authority to increase all types of U.S. energy production and signal to the free world that they should do the same,” Manchin told Biden.
On the House side, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, faulted Biden’s decision as a result of what she termed the president’s “rush to green” environmental policies.
“Under President Biden, the SPR—once the world’s largest stockpile of oil—is now at its lowest level in nearly four decades. President Biden is depleting the reserve to cover-up his anti-American, ‘rush-to-green’ environmental agenda. Since day one, he has waged war on American fossil energy,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement.
“This has led to surging inflation and made everyday life more expensive for people across the board—from the gas pump to the grocery store.
“President Biden’s radical agenda is unaffordable and surrenders our energy security to countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela,” she said. “Instead of using the SPR for political bailout and empowering America’s adversaries, President Biden should end his war on American energy and join Republican efforts to reclaim our energy dominance.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was among the scattering of Democrats who forthrightly praised Biden’s move.
“Thanks to President Biden, gas prices began to fall over the summer, but now we are once again witnessing how easily the global oil market is manipulated—this time by OPEC+,” Pallone said, referring to the international petroleum cartel’s recent decision to cut production by two million barrels per day.
“Nothing is compelling OPEC+ to cut production—they are doing so in an effort to weaponize oil prices in service of Russia and its illegal war on Ukraine. By deliberately squeezing the global oil market dry of supply, they are raising our gas prices for their profit,” he said.
Pallone also praised Biden for announcing plans to begin refilling the SPR when oil prices reach $70 per barrel. The New Jersey Democrat has introduced legislation to authorize such actions by the Chief Executive.
Biden is not the first president to authorize SPR releases.
“Past administrations have drawn on the emergency oil reserve three times—but never at the scale Biden has. The largest was in 2011, following the Arab Spring and war in Libya, when the United States released about 31 million barrels, according to the Department of Energy,” according to E&E News’ Climate Wire.
“The United States also released about 21 million barrels after Hurricane Katrina and about 17 million after the Gulf War.”