White House Watch

Biden Could Dip Into Already-Depleted Oil Stockpile Again As Election Looms

The Biden administration is open to releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) if prices rise in the coming months, a top adviser to the president told Financial Times.

Amos Hochstein, a top energy aide for President Joe Biden, suggested that the administration could turn to the SPR to bring down prices if they surge in the coming months during an interview with Financial Times. The Biden administration released about 180 million barrels from the SPR in the months ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when high energy costs were causing political problems for Democrats, leaving the reserve near its lowest levels in about 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“We will do everything we can to make sure that the market is supplied well enough to ensure as low price as possible for American consumers,” Hochstein told Financial Times. “I think that we have enough in the SPR if it’s necessary,” adding that prices are “still too high for many Americans.”

The administration has made efforts to replenish the SPR, but those refill purchases have not brought the stockpile back to its pre-drawdown levels, according to EIA data. The national average price for a gallon of gas is currently about $3.45, a price that is not as high as 2022’s costs but still about 50% higher than they were in 2021, according to Financial Times.

Oil prices have also interfered with some attempts to refill the reserve by rising above the administration’s price range. Notably, Democrats criticized former President Donald Trump’s proposal to top off the SPR in 2020 when the pandemic tanked oil prices, describing the idea as corporate welfare for major energy companies.

Several million of the SPR barrels released ahead of the 2022 elections ended up being sold to Chinese entities.

Some White House officials are reportedly fearful that gas prices could spike ahead of the election, and that the administration may not be able to lean on the SPR to address the issue as they did before the midterms in 2022. The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it would be releasing 1 million barrels of gas from the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve over the summer months to try to tame prices at the pump.

The DOE and the White House did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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Nick Pope

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