Biden Taps Emergency Oil Reserves To Fight High Prices

President uses 'emergency response tool' to address soaring gas prices after cutting oil extraction

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy and lowering prices in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, DC on November 23, 2021. (Getty Images)
November 23, 2021

President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the release of millions of barrels of oil from the country's emergency reserves in an effort to combat high energy prices.

The United States will bring to market 50 million oil barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the largest ever reduction of the reserves, the White House announced in a statement. The Biden administration's move comes as energy prices have soared in recent months, with gas reaching a seven-year high of $3.41 per gallon on average.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was established in 1975 as an emergency supply following the 1973 Arab oil embargo against the United States that caused oil prices to rise 300 percent. The reserve exists "as an emergency response tool the President can use should the United States be confronted with an economically threatening disruption in oil supplies," according to the Energy Department. The United States has tapped the reserves to address emergencies including hurricanes and the outbreak of the Gulf war.

Critics accused Biden of improperly tapping the country's emergency reserves to address an energy shortage created in part by the president's policies, such as his order to halt new oil and gas leases on federal land.

"Joe Biden cut U.S. oil production, canceled pipelines, and now he's selling off the Strategic Petroleum Reserve—meant for emergencies—because of his low poll numbers," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said Tuesday. "More incompetence from the Biden White House."

Several other countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, will release oil from their emergency reserves in coordination with the United States in a global effort to lower oil prices. The Gulf oil cartel OPEC, however, warned that it might cut production in response to the oil reserve selloffs, in effect negating the price drop achieved by tapping the reserves.