By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Since gasoline prices started to climb to record highs last year, President Joe Biden has been siphoning off large amounts of the nation’s emergency stockpile of petroleum, in hopes of easing prices at the pump.
Citing U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data, Reuters reported that the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve dropped to 453.1 million barrels, which is the lowest level since October 1984.
Near the end of November last year, Biden announced he’d release 50 million barrels from the reserve. Since then, the administration has continued to tap the stockpile to feed energy demand, with 8.4 million barrels released earlier this month.
Immediately after Biden announced the reserve draws, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso criticized the strategy, arguing it wouldn’t provide any long-term solutions to the problem.
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is there for emergencies – national emergencies, war – not to cover over bad policies,” Barrasso said Wednesday. “Desperate gimmicks like releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve don’t solve the fundamental problem: America’s energy crisis is a supply crisis. The solution is more American energy, but it’s the one solution the Biden administration won’t allow.”
Wyoming’s junior Senator Cynthia Lummis concurred with Barrasso stating that Biden was “trying to cover up his mistakes” as a result of his energy policy decisions.
“It was a mistake to release oil from the shrinking Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” Lummis said. “The Reserve exists to aid our nation in the event of a global energy crisis, not in the event of poor planning and bad policy decisions.”
Wyoming Republican congressional candidate Harriet Hageman said the president “so badly mangled” U.S. energy policy that it is a “disaster wherever you look.”
“They are destroying domestic production, driving fuel prices higher, and driving inflation that increases the cost of food and housing,” Hageman told Cowboy State Daily. “When I get to Congress I will be a strong voice against this attack on our own economy and national security.”
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney did not respond for comment.
Going To End Fossil Fuel
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the total petroleum in the reserve climbed over 700 million barrels in April 2008, and remained above that mark until after September 2011.
The reserve didn’t fall below 600 million barrels until last December, and then continued falling to 434.1 million barrels last week. The amount of petroleum in the reserve would supply the U.S. petroleum needs for about three weeks.
During his campaign in 2019, Biden didn’t mince words when speaking on his views toward the oil and gas industry.
“I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuel,” Biden said at one campaign event.
Shortly after taking office, Biden signed executive orders revoking permits that would have allowed the Keystone XL Pipeline and canceled oil lease sales.
“President Biden’s move to tap the strategic petroleum reserve was an ill-conceived attempt to placate the American people as gas prices increased and his poll numbers plummeted,” said Ryan McConnaughey, vice president and director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.
McConnaughey called the move a “symbolic gesture” and said Biden “should have embraced leasing reform, held quarterly oil and gas lease sales, and encouraged domestic production to better insulate American consumers from global instability.”
Though gasoline prices started to rise well before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden has long attributed the problem to the war.
At a press briefing in June, Biden’s Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the use of the reserve, saying “President has taken historic actions to address [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s price hike at the pump.”
Jean-Pierre also blamed oil companies for making record high profits while gasoline prices are so high. She asked them to do more to increase production and lower prices.
What Is The SPR?
The SPR is an emergency petroleum stockpile stored in underground salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas. According to the DOE, the caverns are created by drilling a well into salt formations and then injecting water into the hole, which dissolves the salt.
The U.S. began putting petroleum into the reserve in 1975, in response to the oil crisis that began in 1973 when oil-producing countries of the Middle East started an oil embargo.
While previous presidents at various times have ordered emergency releases of petroleum from the SPR, the largest by far has been under the Biden Administration.
“The SPR was designed to assist the United States in times of significant upheaval, and we would encourage the administration to replace those reserves as soon as possible,” McConnaughey said.