Less than two years into his presidency, President Biden has released more oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve than all previous presidents combined. To date, Mr. Biden allowed to withdraw over 200 million barrels – more than 30% of the total reserve he inherited, intended to be used in case of an urgent need. The SPR is at its lowest level since 1984, when US oil consumption was significantly lower and the reserve was initially being stockpiled. Mr. Biden’s rapid depletion of the SPR is a national security risk.
Even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Mr. Biden aggressively tapped on the SPR. There have been only three previous emergency releases: 17.3 million barrels during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, 20.8 million barrels after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and 30.6 million barrels after military intervention in Libya in 2011.
The SPR was established in 1975 following the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries oil embargo to mitigate supply disruptions. The reserve is further anchored in a multilateral agreement between the United States and 30 other countries in the International Energy Agency, in which each country has “an obligation to hold oil stocks equal to at least 90 days of net imports of oil.”
America consumes about 20 million barrels of oil and other petroleum products every day. It produces 11.3 million barrels of crude oil domestically and imports another 8.5 million barrels of oil and oil products. As a small net exporter of oil, US trade fluctuations make it difficult to calculate an ideal amount of oil reserves. Mr. However, Biden’s rapid SPR depletion means that the current supply would only cover about 50 days if imports suddenly ceased, putting the US economy and security at risk.
Also troubling is Mr. Biden’s dealings with dubious regimes. He sold SPR oil to China and continued to import Russian oil weeks after the Ukraine invasion. He pandered to Saudi Arabia for oil, after vowing to make the country a “pariah,” and courted Venezuela in a bid to boost the authoritarian regime’s output.
Sir. Biden played a major role in creating this precarious situation with his campaign promise to “get off fossil fuels.” This started with an Inauguration Day executive order halting the Keystone XL pipeline, and it has continued with Mr. Biden essentially ended federal oil and gas leases. According to the Journal’s Sept. 4 analysis, this administration has leased fewer acres than any other administration since the end of World War II.
This week, the White House announced plans to release an additional 10 million barrels from the SPR in early November. This could perhaps be an attempt to lower gasoline prices before the midterm elections.
Mr. Instead, Biden should correct course by ending his war on fossil fuels and adopting an all-of-the-above approach that supports fossil fuels while pursuing low-carbon energy sources. Until then, he will put ill-conceived campaign promises ahead of American energy security.
Mr. Zemek previously traded energy stocks as a licensed NASDAQ trader and served as a senior official at the US Department of Commerce from 2017-19.
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Published in the print edition on September 23, 2022.