Biden Taps Strategic Petroleum Reserve

President Biden announced the release of one million barrels of oil daily for the next six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Jonathan Good
Leans Left
Stephen Webber
Leans Right

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Biden is ordering the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) for the next six months. Reports suggest some of America’s allies could join the U.S. in releasing barrels from their own reserves. As demand has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels over the past few months, output has been slow to meet it, and energy costs have surged to historic levels. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further driven up gas prices, and Biden’s ban on importing Russian oil earlier this month pushed them even higher.

The administration has tested several avenues to lower prices at the pump. From asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate energy companies for anti-consumer behavior to pushing a new nuclear deal with Iran – one of the world’s leading oil producers – that would ease sanctions, these efforts have proven largely ineffective at lowering the cost of gas domestically. Republicans point toward actions taken by the administration — such as canceling the Keystone pipeline, suspending new federal oil and gas leases, and raising drilling fees on federal land — as a clear signal to U.S. oil companies to stop producing. Americans have grown increasingly tired of high energy costs at home, causing the President’s approval rating to slip as Republicans continue to pin the blame for soaring prices on Biden for what they view as policies that undermine American energy independence. Biden hopes to counteract the rising energy costs to avoid major backlash in the November midterms.

While the President has ordered two earlier releases from the Reserve with little impact on oil prices, Thursday’s announcement reveals the largest release in the SPR’s nearly 50-year history. Outside of the last six months, American Presidents have ordered emergency releases from the Reserve on three other occasions. According to the Department of Energy, there are currently over 568 million barrels of oil in the SPR. The administration hopes the sizable amount will bridge the gap between high demand and lagging production. Biden’s move quickly impacted crude oil prices, which dropped roughly 4% amid the reports, though it is unclear whether energy costs will drop further or return to earlier heights. Still, the cost of crude oil per barrel remains roughly $40 more than a year ago. On average, Americans use about 21 million barrels of oil per day, with U.S. production currently sitting at about 11.7 million barrels daily. 

The President is also asking Congress to penalize energy companies that currently lease public lands but are not producing. The administration hopes this will boost domestic oil and gas production. Biden also intends to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to increase mining for minerals essential to electric vehicle batteries. The DPA allows the President to expedite and expand the production of goods critical to the U.S.’ national security. This move is part of a broader effort to decrease American reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner energy. 

Republicans were quick to slam the decision, with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) calling it a “Band-Aid on a bullet wound.” They argue that taking these steps without direct efforts to increase domestic energy production will have a temporary impact on gas prices if any at all. Democrats counter that the move is necessary amid oil companies’ hesitancy to ramp up production and point to high costs as yet another reason to shift towards green energy. Outside of Washington, the politics of oil becomes even more complex as industry proponents and environmental groups clash on potential solutions. Advocates call for less government regulation on oil production. Meanwhile, environmentalists push for special windfall taxes on energy companies, arguing they have seen record profits by exploiting surging demand as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic. Economic analysts warn that while the release could stabilize gas prices for 2022, it does not help fix the existing deficit in production, which could remain for years.

With Biden’s announcement of releasing barrels from the SPR, we recommend our Oil Crisis Simulation activity for your students. This activity is an excellent way to explain Interest Groups from Unit 5.6 in AP Government. Have your students role-play as different interest groups asking the President to decide on oil pipelines.

Left Narrative

As the world emerges from the pandemic, Big Oil refuses to increase production to meet demand. While they rake in record profit margins, the American people suffer. President Biden is taking the necessary steps to combat this anti-consumer behavior. His latest move shows he is making every effort to protect Americans from corporate greed. Congress must answer his calls to penalize these companies and further support his efforts to shift the U.S. toward green energy.

Left-Lean Narrative

Right-Lean Narrative

Right Narrative

The Biden administration has been restricting the ability of oil companies to produce more through heavy regulations. He is temporarily and artificially deflating the price of oil to cover for his falling poll numbers. Biden has canceled the Keystone pipeline, suspended new federal oil and gas leases, imposed higher drilling fees on federal land, and championed a Democratic-led push for the Federal Reserve to implement climate change policies. The American people know that Biden created this oil crisis even if he tries to blame oil companies or Putin.

Questions & Answers

Reading Comprehension

Have your students take a reading comprehension quiz to see how well they understood the article and different opinions.

Launch Activity

Discussion Questions

  1. What additional steps should President Biden take to reduce gas prices?
  2. Should the United States expand green energy or produce more oil? Why?
  3. What actions would Republicans take compared to Democrats in this scenario?
  4. Should the United States be using its strategic oil reserve?
  5. Do you think oil companies are utilizing the current situation to make a profit?

Current Events in this story

Check out these current event pages for history, narratives, activities, and more:

Accompanying Content

Big Oil Companies Net $75 Billion in Profit While Americans Struggle to Heat Homes, Fill Gas Tanks

Accountable.US, a government watchdog, released a report showing that some of the largest energy companies reported massive profits last year while attacking the Biden administration’s climate initiatives and causing pain to average Americans.

Press Release
Feb 9, 2022
New York Post (News)
Why Biden energy policies have contributed to surging oil prices

Republicans and other Biden critics say Biden’s actions and proposals since taking office — such as canceling the Keystone pipeline, suspension of new federal oil and gas leases, higher drilling fees on federal land, and a Democratic-led push for the Federal Reserve to implement climate change policies — have sent a clear signal to U.S. producers.

Mar 9, 2022
Leans Right
The Daily Wire
Biden Mulls Releasing 1 Million Barrels Of Oil A Day From U.S. Reserves

President Biden is considering releasing one million barrels of oil per day from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) for up to six months as gas prices continue to soar across the nation, according to a new report.

Mar 31, 2022
PBS NewsHour
President Biden announces use of strategic oil reserve in effort to lower gas prices

President Biden gives a press conference announcing the use of strategic oil reserves. (The President begins speaking at the 15 minute mark.)

Mar 31, 2022
Leans Left

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