President Joe Biden has announced another major release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as part of an ongoing effort to drive down gas prices and drive up the president’s approval ratings. The release will be the largest in the history of the reserve, which is intended for use during national emergencies. Previous releases carried out by the Biden administration have had no significant impact on gas prices.
180 million barrels to be released
Along with declaring that Vladimir Putin is to blame exclusively for high prices, Biden announced that he intends to release 180 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve.
Biden first employed this strategy in November, long before Putin began his attack on Ukraine. The invasion has at least had some impact, so it is a good excuse to try again.
This will be by far the largest release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in its history and it will be accompanied by smaller releases from reserves belonging to countries that have been convinced to cooperate.
The release of 180 million barrels sounds very impressive until one considers the fact that the United States consumes 20 million barrels every day.
Even a release of this size will hardly make a dent in driving prices down and meeting demand, though it will eliminate a very large percentage of the approximately 600 million barrels in the reserve.
That reserve is intended for national emergencies; painfully high gas prices may be an emergency for the Biden’s reputation, but this is not what the strategic reserve is meant to be used for.
Reserve still a limited supply
The release will supply a small percentage of America’s needed oil for a limited amount of time and then it will run out. The reserve has a finite supply and is not a replacement for domestic production or imports.
The White House is likely aware that it cannot hope to accomplish much with the release, but with a midterm election approaching in November the Democrats can’t allow it to be said that their president has done nothing at all.
The White House blames Putin for high prices, but most Americans will recall that gas was already expensive before the current crisis.
Biden’s energy policies and diplomatic failures did most of the damage. He has repeatedly been reduced to begging major oil producing countries to increase production to combat rising prices in America.
Thus far those overtures have not been any more successful than his use of the reserve. He could encourage domestic production, but that would be slow and costly given that his administration has been actively opposed to the fossil fuel industry.
Reaching into the emergency supply is a temporary stunt that will offer the impression that something is being done, but until the White House finds a new source of oil there will be no relief for the American people or for Biden’s approval ratings.