Biden releases 15 million barrels from oil reserve

President Biden announced the release of 15 million more barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Wednesday — before ripping critics who accused him of a desperate ploy to drive down gas prices temporarily right before next month’s midterm elections.

“What is your response to Republicans who say you are only doing this SPR release to help Democrats in the midterms?” a reporter asked Biden at the White House.

The president initially tried to brush off the inquiry, saying: “Where have they been in the last four months? That’s my response.”

It’s unclear why Biden said “four months” — as he first ordered oil released from the reserve nearly seven months ago.

Another journalist pressed, “Is it politically motivated, sir? It’s three weeks before the midterms.”

“Look, it makes sense,” Biden said.

Biden delivers remarks on energy at Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Special Presidential Coordinator Amos Hochstein listen on Oct. 19.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

“I’ve been doing this for how long now? It’s not politically motivated at all,” he added. “It’s motivated to make sure that I continue to push on what I’ve been pushing on.”

“The problem is these guys are asleep,” Biden went on, in an apparent reference to oil companies. “I don’t know where they’ve been. And they seem — you know, the price at the pump should reflect what the price of a barrel of oil costs.”

White House officials told reporters ahead of the announcement that higher than usual corporate profits explain roughly 60 cents of current gas prices per gallon. The average cost of a gallon of gas is $3.85 per gallon, up from $3.34 one year ago, according to AAA data.

In his remarks Wednesday, Biden said that the federal government would begin to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when the price per barrel of oil reaches $70. Former President Donald Trump tried to add 77 million barrels to the reserve in 2020 when oil went for about $20 per barrel, but House Democrats blocked the plan.

A maze of crude oil pipes
The president announced the release of 15 million more barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — just three weeks ahead of midterms.
Richard Carson/REUTERS

Biden claimed in his remarks that he had done nothing to impede US oil production — despite the fact that he took several actions to throttle exploration, drilling and transportation of oil last year.

“Let’s debunk some myths here. My administration has not stopped or slowed US oil production. Quite the opposite,” Biden said.

The president justified the claim by noting that “we’re producing 12 million barrels of oil per day. And by the end of this year, we will be producing 1 million barrels a day more than the day in which I took office. In fact, we’re on track record oil production in 2023.”

Although domestic production has increased, Biden’s critics point out that he also attempted to impose a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land, canceled the Keystone XL oil pipeline project from Canada into the US and banned oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

person pumping gas
Gas prices surged across America for months as the White House attempts to remedy the rise.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

“Americans know that Biden has resorted to gimmicks because his anti-US energy agenda has resulted in soaring gas prices,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Democrats are to blame for the pain at the pump, the record high utility bills, and soaring energy costs. Voters know Republicans are ready to get our economy back on track and that starts with unleashing American energy.”

The US Oil & Gas Administration joined the pile-on, tweeting: “Gonna keep saying this over and over. The Biden Administration has taken dozens upon dozens of actions (over 100 to date) that will make it harder to produce the very US barrels that POTUS needs to refill the SPR.”

“Biden’s attempt to dig himself out of this energy crisis using our emergency oil reserves threatens our national security and leaves us vulnerable, should disaster strike,” tweeted Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.). “Instead, the President should focus on expanding our domestic energy production.”

oil pumpjacks along a section of Highway 33
Biden said that the federal government would begin to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when the price per barrel of oil reaches $70.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It’s not the political petroleum reserve,” added Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). “[Biden] is playing politics with this national security asset.”

Biden initially ordered oil to be released from the US strategic reserve in late March to offset price increases linked to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Biden administration officials framed the upcoming releases as merely “completing” Biden’s plan to release 180 million barrels from the strategic reserve between April and September.

The newly announced release will happen in December. Biden said earlier this month he would release 10 million barrels from the reserve in November to offset production cuts announced earlier this month by the OPEC+ cartel.

About 400 million barrels of oil will remain in the reserve after the December release is complete.

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