By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Struggling to lower gas prices ahead of the general election next month, the Biden administration announced this week the release of another 15 million barrels from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This latest drain on the reserve completes a 180-million barrel drawdown that was announced last spring.
The latest announcement solicited strong reaction from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was built for a national energy crisis, not for a Democrat election crisis,” said Barrasso.
Energy Information Administration figures show the SPR was depleted to less than 470 million barrels in July, the lowest level since October 1984.
The Biden administration began using the reserve as a means to control gas prices last November when it announced a release of 50 million barrels. Several more releases have been authorized since.
In the announcement on the latest release, the White House cited the war in Ukraine for high gas prices and boasted that prices fell by about $1.15 per gallon from their record peak in June, the fastest decline in more than a decade.
For Wyoming’s oil and gas industry, tapping a strategic reserve to bring down consumer gas prices rather than being more accommodating of domestic oil production is disappointing.
“The amount of oil won’t even cover a single day’s worth of use in the United States and really won’t have any measurable impact on fuel prices,” Ryan McConnaughey, spokesperson for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily.
By leaving the U.S. with a few weeks of energy stockpiles in the reserve, McConnaughey said President Biden is putting the nation in a precarious position should a serious disruption in America’s oil production and refining capacity occur.
High gas prices are “a situation that could be addressed in other ways, by actually having a robust energy production, transportation and refining industry here at home,” McConnaughey said.
“Joe Biden is draining our emergency oil supply to a 40-year low,” Barrasso said. “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.”
End Oil And Gas
Gov. Mark Gordon had tasked a working group with exploring at ways the state could address gas prices. The report it released this week proposes a few short-term options, such as a gas app that would allow consumers in Wyoming to receive rebates over a certain price on a gallon of gas. Most of the long-term options the group explored, such as increasing the dismally low refining capacity in the state, would run into federal regulatory obstacles.
The administration has been overt in its hostility toward the industry, with Biden campaigning that he would “end oil and gas.” This has only discouraged investment in petroleum infrastructure, McConnaughey said, which creates another layer impeding production. For capital-intensive projects like refineries, investment dollars are hard to come by.
“That’s one of the reasons that we haven’t seen a new major refinery built in the United States since the 1970s,” McConnaughey said. “It’s hard to invest in a project when the regulators that oversee your industry are continuing to say we will end production and development in the United States. That gives a lot of investors pause.”
Journalist Michael Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never,” has reported on the Biden administration’s denials of responsibility for high energy costs in the country, which includes high heating bills.
Writing in EnergyNow, Shellenberger wrote that Biden has leased less public land to oil and gas development than any president since World War II. In the first 19 months of the Barack Obama administration, the federal government leased 7.25 million acres of public land for oil and gas development. Under the Trump administration, the feds leased 4.4 million acres. Under Biden, there have been 113,000 acres leased.
McConnaughey said that instead of making real efforts to unleash restraints on oil and gas production, the Biden administration is doing “half measures” designed to make it appear it’s doing something about high gas prices without doing anything that would upset activists and campaign donors who don’t want to see more production.