By SUZANNE DOWNING
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana got it right: Over the past two years, President Joe Biden stalled domestic energy production, begged Saudi Arabia to send more oil to America, and drained the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — all in his effort to lower gas prices in advance of the 2022 election.
It’s at the point where the national oil reserve created in 1975 to be available in the event of a national emergency is becoming its own emergency.
Under the Biden Administration, the midterm election and spiking gasoline prices created a political crisis for Democrats, one that the president solved by draining 42% of what was in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when he took office.
Biden abused the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, says Rep. Stephanie Brice of Oklahoma. The 638 million barrels of emergency oil in January of 2021 is down to 371 million barrels in January of 2023.
How much is that in real terms? 371 million barrels is not much more than one barrel per American, which will make enough gasoline to power your car for 280 miles, give or take a hill.
Biden said just before the November election that the administration would, after 18 months of draining the reserve, begin to refill it in the first quarter of 2023. The Department of Energy put out contracts to buy three million barrels of oil from producers at a price between $70-$78 a barrel. It was not much, but it was a start of less than 1 percent.
The bidding period closed in late December and bids were to be reviewed and awarded on Jan. 13, with deliveries expected to be poured back into Big Hill Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Beaumont, Texas in February. It would restore less than 1 percent of what has been removed from the emergency supply by the administration, but it was a start.
Quietly in January, the Department of Energy decided it did not have any acceptable bids, and simply awarded no bids, without an explanation. There will be no three million barrels put back into the SPR this round and the Department of Energy has clammed up about it.
Reasonable people ask why. While DOE won’t say so, producers don’t think $70 is an attractive price, when all signals point to oil being priced on the exchanges in the $80-$95 range for the foreseeable future. Crude oil prices surged to their highest in seven weeks earlier this week.
House Resolution 21, the Strategic Production Response Act, would put side rails on the Department of Energy by prohibiting the release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for political purposes. At this point, it appears H.R. 21 is going to get Christmas-treed with as many as 100 amendments and it may lose its momentum or get killed altogether.
The president has vowed to veto the bill in the unlikely event it makes its way to his desk. “He will not allow the American people to suffer because of the backwards agenda that House Republicans are advancing,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in a White House briefing. H.R. 21, she said, “risks raising these gas prices and making it harder to offer Americans relief in the future.”
Biden wants Americans to believe he has lowered gas prices. Here are the facts: In 2021, gas averaged $3.01 a gallon. Today, gas in America averages $3.50, a nearly 17% increase.
Time is marching on for this president. It’s year three of his first term. He promised he’d put oil back in the SPR, and now he cannot deliver on that promise. While his policies continue to suppress domestic energy production, and demand around the world is exceeding supply, the president has made the nation a less secure place because he traded our national security for power – his own political power.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.