Congressional Republicans launched a formal investigation into the Biden administration on Friday following its decision to sell a Chinese state-controlled company nearly one million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, according to a copy of the probe obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.
The probe comes on the heels of a Free Beacon report detailing how the Biden administration sold China oil from the U.S. reserves amid a crippling energy crisis that has sent consumer prices skyrocketing. Rep. Pat Fallon (R., Texas), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is spearheading the investigation along with six of his GOP colleagues, including Reps. Ronny Jackson (Texas) and Ralph Norman (S.C.).
Fallon and his colleagues are demanding the White House turn over a trove of documents detailing the behind-the-scenes decision-making about these sales, as well as others potentially made to "foreign adversaries."
The Biden administration came under intense criticism earlier this month after it was disclosed that it sold Chinese state-controlled energy firm Unipec 950,000 oil barrels from the U.S. reserves, which historically are tapped in response to emergencies. The White House claimed the sale would "address the pain Americans are feeling at the pump" and "help lower energy costs." But critics say the administration is exploiting the reserves to appease foreign countries while it cuts production domestically to appease the Democratic Party’s far left flank.
"Your policies are harming American energy independence and benefiting our adversaries," the lawmakers write. "Draining the [U.S. reserves] to historic lows for the sake of political expediency … threatens the national security of our nation, and contemplates no long-term strategy to ensure the energy independence of the United States."
Information included in the Republican probe shows that the White House sold China 2.5 million barrels in October and another 1.5 million in November. Millions more were sold to other foreign countries during this time period. Amid these sales, the U.S. reserves dipped below 500 million barrels—the lowest level since 1986. China, on the other hand, has around 926 million barrels stored as it continues to import illicit Russian and Iranian oil to offset the rising price of crude. Current projections show the U.S. reserves "will be drained to approximately 130 million barrels by 2031," according to figures included in the probe.
"The American people can’t afford to put gas in their tanks and our Strategic Petroleum Reserve is at its lowest level in decades, yet Joe Biden is wasting our money and resources by sending oil that’s intended for emergencies to the Chinese Communist Party," Jackson told the Free Beacon. "Helping our adversaries and setting America up for failure in the event of a major disaster or national security threat is no way for an American president to govern. Taxpayers deserve better."
The lawmakers say the "depletion of emergency supplies is troubling to the American public and puts the United States at a disadvantage should there be a real disaster or a national security threat."
As China drains the American reserves, it also is "benefitting from loopholes in current sanctions against Russia and from your lack of sanctions enforcement," the lawmakers write. "It is troubling that the United States is exporting [reserved] crude to China as China continues to align itself with our adversaries."
While China has said that it would stop importing Russian oil amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, it has not made good on these promises. It also is importing illegal Iranian crude oil at record amounts, behavior that has been enabled by the Biden administration’s decision to loosen sanctions on Tehran as part of an effort to cajole it into signing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord.
"Biden has taken these inappropriate steps as China continues to build their own reserve capabilities with cheap Russian and Iranian oil," Fallon told the Free Beacon. "Our Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created to address national or weather emergencies, not for political expediency and personal profit."
The Republican lawmakers instructed the White House to provide them with internal documents related to the sell-off of America’s strategic oil reserves. This includes "all documents and communications, from January 20, 2021, to present" that relates to U.S. crude "being shipped to foreign adversaries—specifically, the People’s Republic of China." The White House must also furnish in-depth information about China’s own oil reserves, as well as any draft plans to potentially replenish America’s stockpile.
"Our strategic reserves are for national security, not to satisfy global oil markets, and certainly not to cover for President Biden’s failed energy policies," Norman told the Free Beacon. "This administration owes our nation immediate answers to these questions."