By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter
The Biden administration wasn’t the first to tap into the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), but his reliance on the nation’s energy stockpiles to keep gas prices low has depleted it to its lowest level since 1984.
This has raised alarms about the position the nation would be in if it were to face a serious crisis and not have enough energy to deal with it.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, on Tuesday introduced the Strategic Production Response Act, which would prohibit the secretary of the Department of Energy from using the SPR unless in the case of a severe energy supply interruption.
To tap the reserve for any other purpose, the secretary would be required to issue a plan to increase oil and gas production on federal lands and waters.
“Our Strategic Petroleum Reserve is for America. It is for emergencies. It is for natural disasters. It is for war,” Barrasso told Cowboy State Daily.
The bill has 10 co-sponsors, including Sens. Steve Daines, R-Montana, Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, and Mike Lee, R-Utah.
“We have enough energy to keep every American warm this winter. But the Biden administration won’t let us get it out of the ground,” Barrasso said. “It is an absolute disgrace, with the energy resources we have in this country, that Americans are facing brownouts and blackouts because of the Biden administration’s radical climate policies.
“Unleashing American energy production, not draining our own emergency supply, is the lasting solution to high prices.”
Rob Wallace, former staff director for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior, applauded the legislation.
“If Americans have no gas to buy at the pump because of domestic or global disruptions, use the SPR. Presidents of both parties have drawn down our strategic reserves for the wrong reason — to increase America’s ‘happiness index,’” Wallace told Cowboy State Daily.
The bill is joined by another related to the SPR. Barrasso joined Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in introducing the Secure Auction for Energy Reserves Act, which would prohibit the federal government from selling oil out of the SPR to China and other countries of concern.
The U.S. House passed similar legislation early this month.
“America has become more vulnerable to true energy and national security emergencies,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Our legislation will ban SPR sales to China and other hostile nations.
“It will also ban SPR sales to state-owned companies which purchase oil from Russia, Iran, and other nations the U.S. has sanctioned. Adversaries cannot be allowed to benefit from America’s security reserve.”
The U.S. House introduced a companion bill to the Strategic Production Response Act.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said President Joe Biden would veto the legislation.
“Proposals like HR 21, which risks raising these gas prices and making it harder to offer Americans relief in the future are non-starters,” Granholm said in a press conference.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, disputed Granholm’s statements on the bill, pointing out that average gas prices are up more than 30 cents nationwide from a month ago.
“The truth is that prices are still higher today than when President Biden first took office, and they’re going up. Millions of Americans are paying more at the pump as a result of the Biden administration’s radical ‘rush-to-green’ agenda that has shut down American energy,” Rodgers said in a statement.
The SPR was set up after World War II showed the nation that having a supply of energy is vital to national defense. The energy crisis during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo pushed the conversation forward, and President Gerald Ford signed legislation to create the SPR in 1977.
The reserve peaked out at more than 750 million barrels in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By the time Biden took office, the SPR held more than 638 million barrels.
The SPR fell to 398.5 million barrels in October, after multiple draws beginning in November 2021.