Energy & Environment

Energy secretary says Republican oil bill would weaken energy security tool, result in higher gas prices 

FILE -Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm speaks during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2023 for the Department of Energy, Thursday, May 5, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
(AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)
FILE -Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm speaks during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing to examine the President’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2023 for the Department of Energy, Thursday, May 5, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Department of Energy said Thursday, May 19, 2022 it will release $3.5 billion to groups developing direct air capture and other technologies that remove carbon dioxide, which when released into the atmosphere causes global warming.(AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is pushing back on a Republican proposal to put stipulations on withdrawing oil from the country’s strategic reserve, arguing that the measure would curtail the use of a key security tool and drive up prices.  

House Republicans are expected to vote soon on a bill that would prevent the Department of Energy from releasing oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) until the administration develops a plan to increase the percentage of federal lands that are leased for new oil and gas production.  

The bill was among the first 11 outlined by Republican leadership as “meaningful, ‘ready-to-go’” measures they would take up initially with their new House majority.  

In a new letter Wednesday, first reported by Reuters and later obtained by The Hill, Granholm objected to the legislation.  

“This bill would significantly weaken this critical energy security tool, resulting in more oil supply shortages in times of crisis and higher gasoline prices for Americans,” she wrote.  

She said that President Biden’s decision last year to release oil from the reserve brought gasoline prices down, citing an analysis from the Treasury Department that the release, in coordination with similar moves from other countries, reduced the price of gasoline by between 17 and 42 cents per gallon.  

She also argued that actions required by the legislation would “delay such critical action and increase prices for Americans when energy disruptions occur.” 

In a written statement to the The Hill, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said that the bill “has absolutely no effect on DOE’s emergency authorities—it simply addresses the politically-motivated use of the SPR and only addresses ‘non-emergency’ sales.”

“If the President declares an emergency resulting from an energy supply disruption, the Secretary has full authority to utilize the SPR—HR 21 will not change or hamper that,” she added, referring to the legislation. “Additionally, under this bill, if the President chooses to use the SPR without declaring an emergency—a non-emergency sale—then the Secretary of Energy must prepare a plan to increase domestic energy production.”

The legislation faces an uphill battle to ultimate passage, as it would need to get past the Democratic-led Senate and Biden.  

Last March, amid price spikes caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden announced that he would release the largest-ever amount of oil from the SPR. The reserve contains the country’s emergency supply of crude oil.  

Republicans criticized the move, arguing that more needs to be done to ramp up domestic drilling. But the administration and its proponents have argued that the administration’s policies toward oil and gas leasing are longer-term issues, while the supply disruption required a shorter-term solution.  

Biden has also called on energy companies to produce more oil in the short term.  

Republicans last week also took up another bill related to the SPR, but that legislation was specifically focused on China. Asked recently why their first energy bills were focused on the reserve, a spokesperson for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said via email that the Biden administration “abused the SPR” to cover up a “radical anti-fossil fuel agenda.” 

The administration has defended its use of the reserve, with a spokesperson for the Energy Department recently saying that the administration “rightly authorized emergency use of the SPR mission to address supply disruptions.” 

Tags Cathy McMorris Rodgers gas prices gasoline House Republicans Jennifer Granholm Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden President Joe Biden strategic petroleum reserve

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