Sen. Cotton: 'It's Called the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's Not the Political Petroleum Reserve'

Susan Jones | October 6, 2022 | 6:03am EDT
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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on efforts to lower high gas prices on June 22, 2022. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on efforts to lower high gas prices on June 22, 2022. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - President Joe Biden has been draining the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a rapid clip, and he's not done yet.

On Wednesday, on the way to Florida, Biden's spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre announced that the president "is determined" to make progress in bringing down gasoline prices:

"At the president's direction, the Department of Energy will deliver another 10 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the market next month as part of the historic 180-million-barrel release the President ordered back in March. And the President will continue to direct SPR releases as necessary," she said.

Whoa, say critics, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

"Well, it's called the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's not the political petroleum reserve," Cotton told Fox News's Laura Ingraham Wednesday night.

"And the reason why they're releasing this oil and gas, they recognize -- even though they want gas to be at $5 a gallon -- they recognize this is a unique pain point for most American families and they got to at least appear to be taking action 34 days before the election.

"That's why they're also blaming OPEC and blaming evil oil companies for trying to drive up the price of oil in this country, but that directly translates back to their own failed energy policies."

Cotton told Ingraham, "Just imagine if we had another hurricane like Hurricane Ian," which could lead to further SPR depletion.

Ingraham opined that the Biden administration is "defrauding the American people. That's not their oil to play with," she said. "That's our oil, collectively. And they're playing politics with just that one issue."

Ingraham urged Republicans to investigate what she called a "calculated political move, which is endangering the future of America."

At the end of September, the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve had dropped to a 38-year low, with 416,389,000 barrels of oil -- 34.74 percent below the 638,086,000 barrels at the end of January 2021, when Joe Biden became president.

(Source: Energy Information Agency)
(Source: Energy Information Agency)

(The most the SPR has ever held was 726.6 million barrels on December 27, 2009.)

On November 23, 2021 -- three months before Russia invaded Ukraine -- President Biden announced that he would release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower "elevated gas prices at the pump" and home-heating bills.

Then, on March 31, 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden announced that he was authorizing the release of 1 million barrels of oil a day -- over 180 million barrels -- from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for six months.

"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."

The Energy Department said the latest 10 million barrel release is part of Biden's earlier, 180-million barrel announcement. So the SPR was not depleted by a million barrels for 180 days, as Biden said it would be.

According to the Energy Department on Sept. 19: "The President’s announcement authorized DOE to release up to 180 million barrels from the SPR to serve as a wartime bridge as domestic production...ramps back up. This historic release of SPR crude has already provided approximately 155 million barrels of crude oil supply to the U.S. economy, resulting in certainty of supply for American consumers. Today’s announcement will bring the total to 165 million barrels out of the 180 million barrels the President authorized in March."

Cotton said the least Republicans can do, if they take control of Congress is to use their spending power "to force the Biden administration to take certain actions whether it's permitting new pipelines or other oil and gas developments, issuing new permits and having new lease sales.

"We did this in the late Obama era, once we won back the Senate and the House in 2015, for instance. We lifted a 40-year-old ban on oil exports going back to the Jimmy Carter era, speaking of Democratic presidents that would intentionally try to hobble American energy.

"These are things, steps we can take to restore America's oil and gas production. That we can encourage more drilling, more production not only for our own energy needs but for those of our allies and partners all around the world.

“Again, the Biden administration, the Democrats, are doing this on purpose. They recognize the political danger of it, though. That's why they are taking such risky steps like this petroleum reserve releases."

According to the U.S. Energy Department:

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the world's largest supply of emergency crude oil, was established primarily to reduce the impact of disruptions in supplies of petroleum products and to carry out obligations of the United States under the international energy program.

The federally-owned oil stocks are stored in huge underground salt caverns at four sites along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. The sheer size of the SPR (current authorized storage capacity of 714 million barrels) makes it a significant deterrent to oil import cutoffs and a key tool in foreign policy.

SPR oil is sold competitively when the President finds, pursuant to the conditions set forth in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), that a sale is required.

Also See:
Oil Industry Exec: OPEC+ Production Cut Is 'Really Bad news for American Consumers'


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