(CNSNews.com) – “There’s definitely a plan” to refill the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told Congress on Thursday, but “it’ll take a few years” to do that, she added.
In January 2021, when Joe Biden became president, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve held 638,086,000 barrels of Oil. As of March 17, 2023, the reserve held 371,579,000 barrels, a 41.76 percent decrease from January 2021 level and the lowest amount since December 1983, 40 years ago.
At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) asked Granholm if the Energy Department has a plan to refill the reserve, which was depleted in part by President Biden’s emergency drawdown of 180 million barrels, the largest drawdown ever, to ease supply disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden’s stated goal was to reduce rising U.S. gasoline prices.
“No, there’s definitely a plan,” Granholm said. “We want to get it back to where it would have been were it not for those sales. Number one is — thank you — Congress has agreed to cancel future congressional sales, about 140 million barrels’ worth. (Congress sometimes mandates SPR sales to raise revenue.)
“That’s one piece of it,” Granholm continued.
“The second is the exchanges that we do on a regular base, we’ll be accelerating those. (Exchange agreements involve short-term loans of oil that are repaid with interest, thereby increasing the size of the SPR.)
“And the third is, of course, to buy back,” Granholm said. “We have $4.5 billion left in the account after the…congressionally-mandated sales were taken care of and funded $4.5 billion. And we want to buy.
“And the — the goal is to buy back at a — obviously, we sold it on average at about $94 a barrel. “We want to buy it back at below $72 a barrel, and so we will be doing that, and that will happen over the course of the next few years.”
Garcia noted that oil prices currently are around $70 per barrel, so why not buy oil right now?
“Part of the challenge is that there’s another piece of congressionally mandated sales that we are required to do this year, so another 26 million barrels,” Granholm said. “That, and we have two sites that are down for maintenance.
“So this year, it will be difficult for us to take advantage of this low price, but we will continue to look for that low price into the — into the future, because we intend to be able to save the taxpayer dollars.”
Garcia asked Granholm when she expects the reserve to return to pre-sell-off levels:
“We will get back to it in the next — I mean, it’ll take a few years, because it takes a while to refill. It takes longer — you’re probably aware of this, to refill than it does to extract.
“Kind of a strange thing but that is just true. And these sales that we’re doing this year will take this year.”
Biden’s historic release of 180 million barrels of oil was completed in December 2022.
The chart below shows how America’s emergency oil reserves have fallen since Biden became president.
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