After President Joe Biden drew down the country's strategic oil reserves to the lowest level in 40 years, experts warn a refill of the vast tanks could take decades or more—leaving America vulnerable in the meantime.
"It would be a very slow process even if you had the money and the facilities were all in good shape," John Shages, who used to oversee the oil reserves for the Energy Department, told Bloomberg. "It could take decades."
"In the meantime, with the reserve at its lowest level in 40 years, the U.S. could be vulnerable to oil price shocks. It also means that during domestic supply crunches, the nation will be left to the mercy of global exporters like Saudi Arabia, Russia and the rest of the OPEC+ cartel," Bloomberg reported.
Over about six months ahead last year's midterm elections, the Biden administration sold off 180 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to lower gas prices, marking the fastest withdrawal in history. In December, Biden announced an effort to replenish the supplies, which are intended to prevent the United States from running out of oil in the case of disruptions or crises.
But as the Washington Free Beacon reported in May, at the pace set by the Biden administration, it would take 40 years to reach the previous oil supply levels. The DOE announced in June that it purchased 3 million barrels and plans to buy 3 million more.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in March the administration "will begin that process this year, but to refill the full amount is impossible." Granholm admitted that it would take years to return oil reserve levels to where they were before Biden entered office.
In an interview this week with CNN, Granholm said it is "definitely possible" her agency will pick up the pace but the job won't be done before the end of Biden's term.
The reserves are intended to prevent the United States from running out of oil in the case of disruptions or crises.
Among the recipients of Biden's selloff of the oil reserves was a Chinese state-controlled gas company. The Energy Department announced it sold 950,000 barrels to Unipec, the trading entity of the government-owned China Petrochemical Corporation.
Republicans have criticized the White House's failure to fill the reserves faster.
"DOE’s mismanagement of the SPR has undermined America’s energy security, leaving the nation more vulnerable to energy supply disruptions, and increasing the ability for OPEC and Russia to use energy as a geopolitical weapon," Republicans lawmakers in a May letter to the Government Accountability Office. They requested an audit of the reserves.