As Americans look to hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday, they’re likely facing some sticker shock at the pump. Gasoline prices have reached near-record levels and likely will only go higher in the coming days. In response, on Tuesday, President Joe Biden ordered a record fifty million barrels of oil released from the country’s strategic reserve.
The aim was to bring gasoline and other costs down, and Biden issued the extremely rare order to release the reserves in coordination with other major energy-consuming nations including China, India and the United Kingdom.
“While our combined actions will not solve the problems of high gas prices overnight, it will make a difference,” the president said in remarks from the White House. “It will take time, but before long you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.”
Shortly after the president’s announcement, India said it would release five million barrels from its strategic reserves, while the UK government announced it would release up to 1.5 million barrels from its stockpile. Japan and South Korea are also reportedly participating. U.S. officials have said this is the largest coordinated release from global strategic reserves to date.
Too Little, Too Late?
The news may sound good, but it will do little to lower the costs for those hitting the road this holiday weekend. The government won’t even begin to move the barrels into the market until mid- to late-December. It is also a literal drop in the bucket. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, Americans used on average 20.7 million barrels a day during September, meaning that Tuesday’s release equals only about two-and-a-half days of additional supply.
Republicans were quick to slam the Biden administration’s decision and accused him of misusing a crucial national security stockpile for a politically expedient goal of lowering gasoline prices, Politico reported.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the United States’ emergency stockpile, and it is meant to preserve access to oil in case of natural disasters, national security issues and other events. It is maintained by the Energy Department, and the reserves are stored in caverns created in salt domes along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts. There are roughly 605 million barrels of petroleum in the reserve.
“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is meant for supplying energy during national emergencies,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a statement. “The only national emergency is President Biden’s awful energy policy in which he has purposefully curtailed American production and then embarrassingly pleaded OPEC to make up the difference.”
Fox News also reported that the move by the Biden administration to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would likely supply China and India, and perhaps not even impact prices in the United States. That is because the two Asian nations have been actively purchasing U.S.-sourced crude oil that is produced in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil contains high levels of sulfur, which makes it more expensive to process. But its low price has attracted foreign buyers.
In addition, of the fifty million barrels of oil that will be released, eighteen million has already been congressionally approved for sale — even if it means that the buyers could be in Beijing and New Delhi. As such Americans should expect to pay more this holiday weekend. Lower prices may be coming, but as they say, “so is Christmas.” It is likely that the holiday will be here long before the prices at the pump come down.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.