U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and her fellow New Hampshire Democrats refused to comment Wednesday on new reports the Biden administration has shipped at least five million barrels of oil from America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) out of the country. Among the recipients of “strategic’ U.S. oil are China and India, who are both still buying oil from the Putin regime waging war in Ukraine.
“More than 5 million barrels of oil that were part of a historic U.S. emergency reserves release to lower domestic fuel prices were exported to Europe and Asia last month, even as U.S. gasoline and diesel prices hit record highs,” Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, “The export of crude and fuel is blunting the impact of the moves by U.S. President Joe Biden to lower record pump prices.” Nearly half a million barrels shipped from an SPR facility in Texas to Trieste, Italy, for example, then went on to central Europe.
“Cargoes of SPR crude were also headed to the Netherlands and to a Reliance refinery in India, an industry source said. A third cargo headed to China, another source said,” according to Reuters.
Critics of the Biden administration have dismissed the SPR release as a political stunt that has had little demonstrable impact on gas prices at the pump. National security experts also note the purpose of the reserve is to protect U.S. energy capabilities in an emergency, such as the nation going to war or energy embargoes by foreign powers — not just price spikes like those seen since Biden took office.
And some oil from the reserve was always going to end up in foreign markets due to the international rules regarding oil sales. Indeed, Bloomberg reports the U.S. has become “the world’s oil barrel of last resort.”
Meanwhile, America’s emergency oil reserves are approaching a 40-year low, even as market watchers warn global supplies may be short for at least another year.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the Republican Study Committee, denounced the move. “President Biden drained our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to dangerously low levels just so that we could turn around and send 5,000,000 barrels of oil to Europe and Asia? America Last Presidency!”
The news comes just days after Biden publicly accused local gas station owners — many of them small businesses owned by immigrants and people of color — of price gouging at the pump. “Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now,” Biden told them.
And what about sending millions of barrels abroad?
During a visit to Exeter, N.H. last week, progressive California Rep. Ro Khanna repeated his call for the Biden administration to “temporarily ban the export of oil, which would bring the price down.” Late last year, a group of congressional Democrats, moderates, and progressives sent a letter to the White House urging an export ban.
None of those Democrats were from New Hampshire.
Instead, the members of New Hampshire’s federal delegation repeatedly declined to respond to questions about the Biden administration’s policy of selling America’s oil reserves abroad, part of their mixed messaging on energy production and soaring prices.
However, their potential GOP opponents were vocal on the matter.
“Is this what Joe Biden’s administration meant when they talked about the ‘liberal world order’? Joe Biden and Chris Pappas’ decision to export American energy reserves to foreign countries during an energy crisis here at home is despicable,” said Matt Mowers, a candidate in the First District GOP primary.
“Granite Staters are struggling to heat their homes and fill their gas tanks because Biden and Pappas are more interested in the Green New Deal than delivering relief for working-class families. Instead of begging Iran and Venezuela for assistance while sending our strategic reserves overseas, Biden and Pappas should reverse their earlier policies that are hampering America’s energy independence.”
Kevin Smith, one of the candidates in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, pushed back on the SPR strategy as a whole:
“Three times Joe Biden has drained the Strategic Oil Reserves with the full support and urging of Maggie Hassan, and all three times it has failed to lower prices. Now we’re learning that Biden and Hassan weakened America’s national security to send 5 million barrels overseas. Enough with the gimmicks – we need to unleash American Energy production at home to lower gas prices and restore energy independence,” Smith said.
Not everyone was critical of the strategy, however. Granite Stater Craig Stevens, a former U.S. energy official, says there are “good geopolitical reasons to export U.S. oil – especially to support Ukraine and their allies in Europe.” However, he says the SPR tactic is more proof the president’s energy policy is failing.
“This reaffirms the need for the Biden administration to do everything it can to help increase North American oil production. The U.S. is blessed with tremendous oil reserves, giving us the opportunity to serve as a hedge against authoritarian regimes and lead the effort to support democracy around the globe.
“President Biden needs to act now in a meaningful way that will allow U.S. energy companies to develop, transport, and refine those resources to help lower gas prices at the pump, support the U.S. economy, and provide energy stability to people around the world.”