The Biden administration is initiating plans to replenish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the U.S. emergency oil supply that the country is currently tapping into at historic rates to boost the oil supply on the market and mitigate prices at the pump.
The Department of Energy announced Thursday it’s beginning a buyback process with a call for bids to repurchase 60 million barrels of oil, or one-third of the 180 million emergency barrels released as Russian President Vladimir Putin wages war on Ukraine. Gas prices were already high before Putin’s war, which sent prices at the pump hurtling upward even more.
The call for bids from companies will take place in fall 2022, and is intended to bolster the nation’s reserves for future years. President Biden announced earlier this year the U.S. would release 1 million barrels a day from the reserve to help alleviate gas prices.
“The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the largest emergency supply in the world, is a valuable tool to protect the American economy and consumers from supply disruptions — whether caused by emergencies at home or petrol-dictators weaponizing access to energy resources,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement. “As we are thoughtful and methodical in the decision to drawdown from our emergency reserve, we must be similarly strategic in replenishing the supply so that it stands ready to deliver on its mission to provide relief when needed most.”
In its news release announcing the plan, the Energy Department noted they expect oil prices and demand to be significantly lower likely after fiscal year 2023. It remains unclear how long gas prices will stay above an average of $4 a gallon nationally.
The Energy Department said the replenishment plans will also help encourage production needed now to lower prices this year, since oil prices are based partly off of future expectations.
But some Republicans are criticizing the administration’s plans to release addition oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying it’s a political move.
“The president’s plan to release millions more barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is not only wrongheaded but a purely political maneuver designed to temporarily distract voters from the real issue – which is reduced energy production due to Biden’s own policies,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tweeted Tuesday.
The average price in the country on Thursday for a gallon of gas is $4.25, according to AAA, up from $4.18 a month ago despite the administration’s attempts to stave off price hikes.