(CNSNews.com) – President Biden on Wednesday announced the sale of another 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and dismissed Republican claims that the move was a politically motivated bid to lower gas prices as midterm elections loom.
“Look, it’s makes sense,” Biden told reporters after making the announcement at the White House. “I’ve been doing this for how long now? It’s not politically motivated at all.”
“It’s motivated to make sure that I continue to push on what I’ve been pushing on,” he continued. “And that is making sure there’s enough oil that’s being pumped by the companies so that we have the ability to be able to produce enough gas that we need here at home, oil we need here at home, and, at the same time, keep moving in the direction of providing for alternative energy.”
Biden indicated that the sale of 15 million barrels of oil from three major SPR storage facilities in Texas and Louisiana – which completes the 180-million-barrel release first authorized in March – would likely not be the last.
“Look for further releases in the months ahead if needed,” he said. “We’re calling it a ‘Ready and Release’ plan. This allows us to move quickly to prevent oil price spikes and respond to international events.”
Biden also announced that the administration will start replenishing the SPR when crude oil drops to $70 a barrel, a move which he said would benefit taxpayers and be “critical to our national security.” WTI crude was trading around $83 on Wednesday.
The SPR is at its lowest level since 1984.
Amid earlier reports about the expected announcement, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) raised the issue of SPR releases during his Tuesday night debate against the challenger for his Florida Senate seat, Democratic Rep. Val Demings.
Responding to a question about inflationary pressures squeezing American families, Rubio said the U.S. has “got to begin to produce American oil again,” and asked why it was “begging” for oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran.
“We’re producing a million barrels a day less, on oil, than we used to do just a couple of years ago,” he said.
“Instead, we are depleting our reserves,” Rubio continued. “Our oil reserves do not exist to win midterms, they exist to help this country in an emergency or in the midst of a storm.”
He accused his opponent of backing “crazy” proposals to tax oil by $10.25 a barrel, which would mean consumers pay 35 cents a gallon more. Addressing inflation “begins by winning this election and getting people like that out of office.”
Demings said in response that Rubio, “who has never run anything at all but his mouth,” knows nothing about helping people who are in trouble. She went on to defend the use of government relief to help Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, but did not specifically address the energy issue.
During his remarks at the White House on Wednesday, Biden said he wanted to “debunk some myths here.”
“My administration has not stopped or slowed U.S. oil production; quite the opposite,” he said. “We’re producing 12 million barrels of oil per day. And by the end of this year, we will be producing one million barrels a day more than the day in which I took office.”
Both Biden and Rubio are right about rising and falling U.S. oil production.
As Biden said, the U.S. is now producing 12 million barrels of oil a day compared to 11 million in January 2021, when he became president.
But Rubio said in the debate that the U.S. is now producing one million barrels of oil less than “just a couple of years ago.”
In March 2020, as the pandemic took hold, the U.S. was producing 13 million barrels a day, the high point of a steady climb from 9.5 million barrels in October 2017.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at a daily briefing on Wednesday said that “the United States has produced more oil in President Biden’s first year than under Trump’s administration's first year.”
Energy Information Administration data show that during President Trump’s first year in office, U.S. oil production rose from 8.961 million barrels a day on Jan. 20, 2017 to 9.878 million barrels a day on Jan. 19, 2018, an increase of 0.917 million barrels a day.
In the first year of the Biden administration, in contrast, U.S. oil production rose from 10.9 million barrels a day on Jan. 22, 2021 to 11.6 million barrels a day on Jan. 21, 2022, an increase of 0.7 million barrels a day.
In further GOP reaction to Biden’s announcement, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) said the president “has again resorted to weakening America and decreasing our combat readiness by tapping into our strategic petroleum reserves for short term political gain.”
“Desperate to cover up the senseless – yet all too predictable – pain caused by his promises to ‘end fossil fuels’ he first turned to foreign governments, then to our emergency stockpiles, while completely ignoring the abundant resources we have at our disposal right here in the United States,” he said.