Our nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is running dangerously low. New statistics released indicate our national emergency oil stockpile, which is intended to protect the United States from unexpected and severe supply disruptions, has hit another historic low. It’s a dangerous point for the United States, and even worse, it’s self-inflicted. With these facts in mind, new reports indicate the Biden administration plans to sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to assuage fuel prices, which was on the forefront of the mind of voters in last week’s midterm elections. According to new data released from the Energy Information Administration, our oil reserves stockpile is down to just 396 million barrels. The sharp drop, now down to its lowest level since April 1984, isn’t due to natural disasters, trade embargoes, or acts of God, but instead due to politics.
Congress established the SPR following OPEC’s 1973 decision to halt oil trading with the United States. This situation illustrated the vulnerability of being overly reliant on foreign producers to supply our energy needs. As a result, President Ford signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which permitted the federal government to hold up to 1 billion barrels and disperse as necessary in cases of “severe energy supply disruptions.”
President Biden has been using the SPR, which historically has been used in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or in times of war, as his personal political tool. Knowing high oil and gasoline prices may be a political liability to his party in the November midterms, President Biden has been withdrawing from the SPR to keep prices artificially low. Since being inaugurated in January 2021, President Biden has drained 230 million barrels of oil. That is the steepest drop in reserves by any president in U.S. history.
Even needing to tap the SPR is an acknowledgment of the president’s hostile oil policies and how they have contributed to the imbalance between supply and demand. This imbalance has caused volatility in the oil markets, resulting in record-high gasoline prices over the summer.
This concerning reality could have been avoided if President Biden had prioritized American energy production, specifically crude oil and natural gas. Instead, his administration has championed harmful oil and gas policies that have handcuffed the energy sector. He canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, halted new drilling on federal lands, implemented regulatory hurdles, and raised taxes on energy companies.
Moving forward, if the SPR is too depleted, we must have viable options to effectively respond to natural disasters and times of war. Unleashing American energy production, not draining our own emergency supply, is the lasting solution to stabilizing prices at the pump and protecting national security. Still, oil production is far short of where it was prior to the pandemic. In 2019, the U.S. Energy Information Administration calculated that we produced roughly 12.3 million barrels per day, but in 2021, we produced roughly a million fewer barrels than that period.
Despite the ongoing energy crisis, and with gas prices beginning to creep back up to an average of $4 per gallon, this president is unwilling to encourage more oil from U.S. producers. The White House and Department of Energy signaled all options are on the table to stabilize prices and now they’re pivoting back to tapping the SPR again. In mid-October, the Biden administration announced it will withdraw another 15 million barrels over the next few weeks to lower prices before the midterm elections.
Now, nearly 50 years after an OPEC decision spurred the creation of the SPR, the U.S. is once again facing the consequences of allowing our energy supply to be reliant on the OPEC cartel. In October, OPEC+ announced their intention to slash oil production by 2 million barrels of oil per day. This massive cut will have sharp consequences for Americans – pushing high energy costs even higher. President Biden is running out of ineffective solutions now that he has depleted the SPR to a dangerous low. Instead of utilizing our robust resources at home, President Biden is looking abroad, and even to hostile nations, for answers. In fact, recent reports have revealed that the White House is in talks with Venezuela.
High gas prices are a real national concern, and steps must be taken to lower energy costs for Americans. But playing politics with a national security asset is not the way to address the problem.
We need a real long-term strategy to keep both energy prices affordable and our country’s oil reserves fully stocked. We can accomplish this through building more pipelines, reducing regulatory burdens, reforming our permitting laws, and supporting energy producers.