In a last-ditch effort to ease pain at the pump and improve his plummeting poll numbers, President Biden has approved the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Biden’s announcement comes just as millions of Americans are about to hit the roads for the Thanksgiving Holiday in pre-pandemic levels.
American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic,” the White House said in a statement. “That’s why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply.”
The White House said the release had been coordinated with at least five other major energy-consuming nations — China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom — and followed “weeks of consultations.”
Out of the 50 million barrels, 32 million will be released in the next few months and will return to the reserve in the years ahead, the administration said. The other 18 million will be released as part of an acceleration of an oil sale already authorized by Congress.
Americans used an average of 20.7 million barrels a day during September, according to the Energy Information Administration, meaning that Tuesday’s release equals about two-and-a-half days of additional supply.
“The President stands ready to take additional action, if needed, and is prepared to use his full authorities working in coordination with the rest of the world to maintain adequate supply as we exit the pandemic,” the White House said.
The announcement comes one week after Biden asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether oil and gas companies were involved in “illegal conduct” in order to keep prices up, noting “mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior.”
“The bottom line is this: gasoline prices at the pump remain high, even though oil and gas companies’ costs are declining,” Biden wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “The Federal Trade Commission has authority to consider whether illegal conduct is costing families at the pump. I believe you should do so immediately.”
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the administration would “continue to press oil companies who have made record profits and are overseeing what we consider to be price gouging out there.
“When there’s a supply of oil or the price of oil is coming down, and the price of gas is not coming down, it does not take an economic expert to know that’s a problem,” she said.
Earlier this month, several Senate Democrats urged the president to take action, as the national average price for a gallon of gasoline sits at the highest it’s been since 2014 ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, per AAA.
In their note to Biden, the 11 lawmakers suggested releasing supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and banning crude oil exports to help lower costs.
As of Tuesday, the nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline stood at $3.40, approximately $1.28 more than a year ago, according to AAA.
Tapping the Reserves Slammed By Trump and the GOP
Republicans who have been critical of Biden’s energy policy bashed Biden’s announcement.
“President Biden’s policies are hiking inflation and energy prices for the American people,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will not fix the problem. We are experiencing higher prices because the administration and Democrats in Congress are waging a war on American energy.”
“President Biden’s decision to tap America’s strategic reserves—which will release just 3 days’ worth of oil onto the market — is not about a real solution to our energy crisis,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “It is a crass political ploy just 3 days ahead of Thanksgiving.”
Former President Donald Trump insisted that the strategic reserve should only be accessed during “serious emergencies, like war, and nothing else.”
“For decades, our Country’s very important Strategic Oil Reserves were low or virtually empty in that no President wanted to pay the price of filling them up,” Trump said in an emailed statement. “I filled them up three years ago, right to the top, when oil prices were very low.”
“Now I understand that Joe Biden will be announcing an ‘attack’ on the newly brimming Strategic Oil Reserves so that he could get the close to record-setting high oil prices artificially lowered,” Trump added. “We were energy independent one year ago, now we are at the mercy of OPEC, gasoline is selling for $7 in parts of California, going up all over the country, and they are taking oil from our Strategic Reserves. Is this any way to run a country?”