Energy & Environment

Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback

The Biden administration’s move to tap into the country’s oil reserves is drawing pushback from several Republicans, including former President Trump.

They say the move sets a bad precedent, and are using the news to blast the Biden administration’s energy policies at large. 

The administration announced on Tuesday that it would sell 50 million barrels from the reserve, which, as of August, held more than 621 million barrels of oil. 

“Those reserves are meant to be used for serious emergencies, like war, and nothing else,” former President Trump said in a statement. 

“Now I understand that Joe Biden will be announcing an ‘attack’ on the newly brimming Strategic Oil Reserves so that he could get the close to record-setting high oil prices artificially lowered … Is this any way to run a Country?” he added. 

The Trump administration floated selling off some of the emergency reserve to pay for Energy Department (DOE) projects last year as part of the presidential budget, but when prices fell amid the coronavirus pandemic it instead moved to buy oil for the reserve.

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W-Va.), while not condemning the sale itself, called it merely an “important policy Band-Aid for rising gas prices” and criticized the administration’s energy policy as “shortsighted” and a “self-inflicted wound.”

Manchin has joined a chorus of Republicans in criticizing the Biden administration over the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline construction. Many have also critiqued a now-reversed move to pause new drilling lease sales. 

Neither the leasing pause nor the Keystone permit cancellation were expected to directly impact short-term oil supply. 

When asked about the idea that the reserve is supposed to be used for emergencies, White House press secretary Jen Psaki cited the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We’re emerging from a once in a century pandemic and the supply of oil has not kept up with demand as the global economy has emerged from the pandemic,” she told reporters during a Tuesday press briefing. “I would note this is not technically an emergency release, but tailored to market circumstances. The DOE has broad authority to do exchanges.”

The White House had earlier said the announcement “reflects the President’s commitment to do everything in his power to bring down costs for the American people and continue our strong economic recovery.”

Of the 50 million barrels, 18 million were already expected to be released as part of a sale Congress had authorized — though their release will now be accelerated. The other 32 million barrels will eventually be returned once fuel prices come down. 

When it comes to energy issues, the administration has to consider the political implications for both swing voters impacted by prices at the pump as well as progressive members of its base, who have called for strong restrictions on fossil fuels. 

Nevertheless, opponents still argue that this is the wrong way to tackle rising gasoline prices. 

“The precedent for using this as a tool to mitigate that energy policy is just a bad idea,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said in a Tuesday interview, adding that he has opposed both Democrats and Republicans tapping the reserve to pay for policies. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed concern about having to buy back barrels, predicting that “we will end up having to eventually replace the released oil at higher prices.”

Graves argued, meanwhile, that a large part of the problem is the signal that the administration’s climate and energy policy is sending, even if the policies themselves haven’t had a large impact on short-term supply. 

“What needs to happen here … is to recalibrate to reflect on energy policies that actually make sense,” he said. 

Brett Samuels contributed.

Tags Donald Trump Garret Graves Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Lindsey Graham

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