As GOP calls Biden’s oil reserve depletions election-year politics, figures show he’s

In April 2022, the White House celebrated the Biden administration’s sale of the first 30 million of an eventual 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which seemed an unprecedented election year move at the time.

In May, the Energy Department similarly celebrated a planned liquidation of 1 million barrels from the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve (NGSR), a Perth Amboy-to-Boston contingent of the SPR, aimed at lowering summertime gas prices.

Fox News Digital took a deeper dive into the numbers to see whether administration critics have ground to stand on when it comes to claims President Biden is wielding U.S. oil reserves as an unprecedented election-year cudgel, versus simply helping Americans better afford to travel.

The findings showed the SPR saw its most sweeping drawdowns during Biden’s tenure, and that he and former Presidents Trump and Clinton oversaw the largest historical decline in reserves.


In the 2022 case, a White House announcement blamed in part Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine for supply disruptions that elevated oil prices, after Siberia was no longer permitted as a U.S. source of fuel.


However, Republicans, including former President Trump, blamed Biden’s cancellation of transcontinental pipeline projects and executive actions affecting energy production in Alaska and elsewhere that caused gas prices to soar from roughly $2 per gallon during the prior administration.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called this year’s sale evidence the administration is “laser focused” on slashing consumer costs, particularly ahead of the summer travel season.

“By strategically releasing this reserve in between Memorial Day and July 4th, we are ensuring sufficient supply flows to the tri-state and northeast at a time hardworking Americans need it the most,” Granholm said in a statement.


Figures uncovered by Fox News showed that in the years since the SPR got up to speed during the Carter years — it had been established following the 1973 oil crisis as an energy security measure — it was depleted the most under Biden’s tenure.

Following the 1980 election, the SPR notched 112.5 million barrels in January 1981, and by the end of President Reagan’s term, it had grown to nearly 450 million barrels in January 1989. As of 2023, the SPR has a maximum capacity of 714 million barrels.

Both Presidents Bush increased the capacity of the SPR — George H.W. Bush added 13.8 million barrels, while his son, who announced a full-throated effort to shore up reserves after 9/11, added a net 162 million barrels by January 2009.

During Operation Desert Storm, 21 million barrels were depleted, and 11 million were utilized following Hurricane Katrina, which decimated coastal oil refineries.

Every other president since that time, plus Clinton, has seen the reserves depleted under his watch.

The Arkansas Democrat saw a net depletion of 33.7 million barrels, while the Trump administration oversaw a drawdown of about 57 million barrels.

President Biden has more than quadrupled that figure from January 2021 through March, with a net decrease of 274 million barrels — which does not include any selloffs from the administration’s May announcement.

President Obama also saw the SPR reduced by about 9 million barrels during his term.

Fox News’ analysis found releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve via a president’s orders — such as during Desert Storm and following Katrina — have been rare, and only substantively fallen under an “emergency release” scenario.

A Congressional Research Service report from 2022 after Putin invaded Ukraine claimed such drawdowns in SPR reserves are permissible and that they should not always be characterized as politically motivated.


Congress itself is also permitted to occasionally mandate sales of oil reserves to fund legislative priorities.

But, this time, congressional Republicans have called out Biden, alleging he is playing politics with America’s energy security in an election year.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers — the top Republicans on their respective energy committees — accused Biden of doing just that in a scathing letter to Granholm:

“Under President Biden, the SPR has reached its lowest level since 1983. The DOE has overseen the largest sale in history, amounting to a total of 290 million barrels. When President Biden took office in January 2021, the SPR contained 638 million barrels of oil,” they said.

“Today, the SPR currently contains 367 million barrels of oil, which represents nearly a 42 percent decline from when President Biden took office.”

The lawmakers called the Biden release in 2022 “a transparent attempt to influence the midterm elections and distract from the Biden administration’s energy policy failures.”

In an apparent attempt to halt politicization, McMorris-Rodgers authored the Strategic Production Response Act, which would limit SPR drawdowns until Congress can provide oversight while banning depletion for “nonemergency purposes.” The bill passed the House.

When Trump attempted to do the opposite and fill the SPR while oil prices were at a rock-bottom $24 per barrel, he was conversely stopped by Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., celebrated the block at the time, claiming removing the provision from a bill “eliminated a $3 billion bailout for Big Oil.”

However, the White House did announce opposition to McMorris-Rodgers’ bill, claiming it would “significantly weaken a critical energy security tool.”

“This administration’s use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been essential to protecting our energy security and to lowering gas prices for Americans,” the White House said in 2023.

The Energy Department and White House did not respond to requests for further comment for purposes of this story.

Fox News’ Mark Bentley contributed to this report.

Original article source: As GOP calls Biden’s oil reserve depletions election-year politics, figures show he’s sold off the most

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