Strategic Petroleum Reserve Drops Below 400M Barrels for First Time in 38 Years

Susan Jones | November 4, 2022 | 7:23am EDT
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A view of California's "Petroleum Highway" (Highway 33) running along the northwestern side of the San Joaquin Valley on April 24, 2020, near McKittrick, California. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
A view of California's "Petroleum Highway" (Highway 33) running along the northwestern side of the San Joaquin Valley on April 24, 2020, near McKittrick, California. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

( - Ahead of the midterm election, President Biden often takes credit for reducing gasoline prices, but the reduction comes at the expense of the nation's emergency oil stockpile.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has just dipped below 400 million barrels, a low not seen since May 1984.

For the week ending October 28, there were 399,792,000 barrels of oil in the SPR, a 37.34 percent decrease from the 638,086,000 barrels in the SPR when Biden took office. The maximum capacity is 714,000,000 barrels.

The chart below shows the Biden drain, which hasn't stopped.

(Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)
(Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

President Biden on March 31, 2022 announced the release of 180 million barrels of crude oil to address the supply disruption caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine.

"This is a wartime bridge to increase oil supply until production ramps up later this year," Biden said at the time. "And it is by far the largest release from our national reserve in our history. It will provide a historic amount of supply for a historic amount of time — a six-month bridge to the fall.

"And we’ll use the revenue from selling the oil now to restock the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices are lower so we’ll be ready — we’ll be ready for future emergencies."

The remainder of the 180 million barrels will be released by December 31, the Energy Department said.

According to the Energy Department, "The drawdowns have been a stabilizing force in the volatile energy market, and a recent analysis from the Department of the Treasury estimates that SPR releases this year, along with coordinated releases from international partners, have reduced gasoline prices by up to about 40 cents per gallon compared to what they would have been absent these drawdowns."

President Biden, meanwhile, continues to vilify the U.S. oil industry as greedy, even anti-American.

On the campaign trail in New Mexico Thursday, Biden again threatened to hit oil companies with a windfall profits tax:

"Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent gas prices soaring around the world," Biden said.

"But because of the action we’ve taken, gas prices are coming down.  Here in America at home, they’re down to $1.25 since the summer peak of $5.  And look, back in June — back in June, they were $5 average price across America. It was a difficult time across America. The country stepped up and did the right thing.

"But not everyone. I know we have a lot of leases out here in New Mexico for oil companies. And we haven’t slowed them down at all. They should be drilling more than they’re doing now.  If they were drilling more, we’d have more — more relief at the pump. But the oil industry hasn’t met their commitment to invest in America and support the American people.

"One by one, major oil companies reported their record profits this last quarter.

"Shell — Shell Oil — Shell Oil — they deserve a hard return on their profit. Shell Oil made $9.5 billion in 90 days in the last quarter — in the last quarter.  Well, guess what? That’s been a long — that’s twice what they made the third quarter of last year.

"Exxon’s third quarter profits this year — this quarter, $18.7 billion. That’s more than they made in their 152-year history.

"Now, look, I want them to make money. That’s fine by me. But the last six months, the six largest oil companies made more than $100 billion in profit in 200 days.

"Well, here’s the deal: These companies are taking advantage. The average profits they’re making — if they did the average profits they’ve made for the last 20 years, well, guess what? Your gasoline prices would be down 50 cents a gallon.

“No, I’m serious. If they were investing in profits that are at a historic rate, prices would come down even further. But instead, they’re buying back their own stock, primarily the way executives get paid, and giving their profits to shareholders. But these outrageous profits are the windfalls of war.

"Look, earlier this week, I made clear that the industry has a choice: either invest in America or pay higher taxes for your excess profits and face restrictions..."

Biden came into office vowing to “end fossil fuel, and I am not going to cooperate with them,” he said in 2019.

The American Petroleum Institute this week released a plan to "restore U.S. energy leadership."

“It’s time for policymakers to stop the finger pointing and embrace a new era of American energy leadership that recognizes our nation’s abundant resources, supports energy investment, creates new access and keeps regulation from unnecessarily restricting energy growth,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers.

The plan includes lifting development restrictions on federal lands and waters; ending permitting obstruction; designating critical energy infrastructure projects; unlocking investment and access to capital; and dismantling supply chain bottlenecks.

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