Rep. Upton hints at spending-bill rider to limit oil releases

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is hinting that Republicans upset with the White House decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) could seek to limit future releases with provisions attached to spending legislation.

Upton and other senior Republicans say last week’s decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the SPR is a political move at odds with the emergency purpose of the stockpile.

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Upton, in an interview with energyNOW! airing this weekend, was asked whether he envisions further releases beyond the 30 million barrels, which White House officials aren’t ruling out.

“We will see,” he replied, and then suggested that lawmakers could try and step in. “We have got a number of different appropriations – spending – bills that are out there,” he said.

Upton’s comments come after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she would consider floating legislation that sets tighter criteria governing when oil may be released from the emergency stockpile.

White House officials say the decision to use the SPR – which is part of a broader, 60 million barrel release with other International Energy Agency members – is based on supply disruptions from the crisis in Libya that are threatening the economy.

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“The president has been deeply concerned about the impact that the disruption of oil production and exports from Libya and other countries in the Middle East has had on energy supplies globally, the tightness that that’s created in the market, and the effect of that tightness on global economic growth at home and abroad,” a senior administration official told reporters Thursday.

The IEA estimates that the unrest in Libya had removed 132 million barrels of prized light, sweet crude from the market by the end of May.

But Upton, in the interview, said the focus should be on expanding domestic oil production, criticizing what he calls undue barriers that the Obama administration has placed on domestic oil-and-gas development.

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The House has passed several GOP-led bills recently aimed at speeding up oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast, and making more areas available for development.

Upton is also pushing legislation that would require an administration decision by November on whether to approve a major pipeline to expand imports of Canadian oil sands.

“If they would simply say it is time to start again here in this country – whether it is from Canada, Alaska or the Gulf [of Mexico] – I think we could more than make up for what the disruption has been from the Middle East,” he said in the energyNOW! interview.