Biden Taps Emergency Oil Stash to Reduce Gas Prices

gas prices


But results could take time.

President Joe Biden is ordering the single largest release of oil reserves in U.S. history.

In partnership with allies around the world, the president announced Thursday that he will put out 1 million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months to combat soaring gas prices. While Biden couldn’t give an exact estimate, he said fuel costs could come down as much as 10 to 35 cents a gallon, but he also acknowledged that there might be a delay in this drop. 

“The action I’m calling for will make a real difference over time, but the truth is, it takes months, not days, for companies to increase production,” he said during an address at the White House. “That’s why the next part of my plan is so important.” 

His remarks come as gas prices hit record highs in much of the country — some states, including California, have even hit north of averages beyond $5 per gallon. 

Why is Biden tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? 

First created during the 1970s oil crisis, this stockpile of crude oil was set up for times like these, so that the U.S. doesn’t have to worry about potentially catastrophic shortages. 

But these reserves only go so far. They currently hold more than 500 million barrels of oil, which is less than a month’s worth of oil based on current consumption levels. This could explain why Biden has stepped up pressure on oil companies to ramp up oil production on federal lands and issued a Cold War-era directive to boost the domestic production of metals and minerals that are used in clean energy and electric vehicles.

 As NPR notes, tapping the nation’s emergency oil stash nevertheless remains one of the few tools that the president has at his disposal to mitigate the rising cost of gas prices.

How much impact will this move actually have?

In short, it remains to be seen. The rationalization behind tapping the stockpile is that the move is thought to create pressures to help reduce oil prices. But Biden has already ordered releases on two other occasions —  including 30 million barrels earlier this month — and so far neither has had a substantial impact.

As Biden has acknowledged himself, unpredictable factors are at play, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, Biden announced plans to ban U.S. imports of Russian energy, and the White House has blamed Russia for rising gas prices, labeling the surge as “Putin’s price hike.”

“Our prices are rising because of Putin’s action,” Biden said in announcing his new plans. “Nearly a dollar more in less than three months, and the reason for that is because of Putin’s war.”

What are critics saying?

There’s some concern that this move will fail to provide any long-term relief. Oil analyst Stewart Glickman compared the release to “taking some Advil for a headache.”

“The root cause of the headache is probably still going to be there after the medicine wears off,” Glickman told the AP.

Meanwhile, Republicans like Montana Senator Steve Daines have blasted Biden’s action, saying the president should have taken steps to increase U.S. energy production before tapping the reserve.