In House vote on Strategic Production Response Act, GOP aims to limit oil reserve withdrawal

  • In Politics
  • 2023-01-26 15:40:52Z

WASHINGTON- The House is voting on legislation Thursday that would limit President Joe Biden's authority to withdraw oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after Republicans claim he misused the power for political gains.

The bill, labeled the Strategic Petroleum Response Act (H.R. 21), would prevent an administration from withdrawing oil from the reserves unless there is an increase in the percentage of federal lands that produce oil and gas to match the percentage withdrawn.

The bill is unlikely to become law; it does not have the votes to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Biden administration has said it would veto it in any case, It comes after Biden ordered the largest withdrawal in U.S. history last year, a move that plummeted the reserves' levels to their lowest since 1984.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the bill earlier this month.

Biden ordered the withdrawal of 180 million gallons of oil from the emergency reserves last year when Russian sanctions and the war in Ukraine affected the global oil supply and raised prices to historic highs.

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The Biden administration has criticized the proposed legislation, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm saying the bill will weaken the reserve's usefulness as a tool to ensure energy security.

"It would require these arbitrary reports regarding energy production on federal lands before waiving any new restrictions," she said during a White House briefing. "It would not offer any tangible benefits to the American people."

The House passed similar legislation earlier this month with a bipartisan vote that prohibits the sale and export of oil from the federal reserves to China. Rodgers' bill likely won't pass in the Senate, where Democrats have the majority. Granholm said Biden will veto the legislation if it comes to his desk.

What is the strategic petroleum reserve?

The strategic petroleum reserve is the world's largest supply of emergency crude oil that is federally owned and stored in underground caverns at sites around the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the Department of Energy, the reserve is a "significant deterrent to oil import cutoffs and a key tool in foreign policy."

Administrations from both parties have withdrawn oil from the reserves throughout the last few decades. Prior to Biden's withdrawal last year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, under former President Barack Obama, was the last to withdraw oil from the reserve in 2011 to offset supply disruptions from unrest in Libya.

Why does the GOP want to limit Biden's authority?


Republicans say the proposed legislation will discourage politically motivated use of the petroleum reserve for non-emergency purposes and will reduce gas prices by increasing the land available for oil and gas production, according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Republicans have also said Biden's large withdrawal from the reserve has compromised national security by depleting the available oil.

"The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is there in case of emergencies, and shouldn't be used as a political prop," Rep. John Joyce, R-Pa., who co-sponsored the bill, tweeted. "It's time to prevent the Biden Administration from using our reserves for non-emergency reasons without establishing a plan to increase oil and gas production here at home."

Do withdrawals from the oil reserve affect gas prices?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: A man pumps gas into his SUV at an Exxon gas station on Sept.
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: A man pumps gas into his SUV at an Exxon gas station on Sept.  

The Biden administration credits withdrawals from the reserve to lowering gas prices. The Department of Energy estimated Biden's withdrawal from the reserve lowered gas prices by 40 cents per gallon last summer and announced in December the agency has begun purchasing oil to replenish what was withdrawn last year.

Secretary Granholm said unnecessary restrictions on when the reserve can be used could result in prices rising.

"It would potentially delay allowing oil to be released for domestic emergencies following a natural disaster or a pipeline outage at home, leaving, again, prices at risk of rising during - in the wake of a market shock because of emergencies due to extreme weather events," she said during a White House briefing. 

Biden said gas prices would increase from the proposed legislation.

"Blinded by politics, they reduce the ability of any president to provide relief to American families from natural disasters and foreign threats," he said in a video statement. 

Republicans feel differently, blaming Biden for current above-average gas prices combined with a drained petroleum reserve.

"The administration, especially leading up to the election, depleted our reserve for political purposes and I believe that it is important that they are transparent, and we are holding them accountable for that," Rodgers said on CNBC. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republican-backed bill hopes to limit Biden authority over oil reserve


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