CYNICAL: Biden Releases 1 Million Barrels of Gasoline in Bid to Lower Summer Costs Ahead of Election

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The Biden administration on Tuesday announced the release of 1 million barrels of gasoline, a move aimed at cutting prices at the pump this summer, as the November election nears.

The administration’s move comes as summer driving season gets underway, when prices typically bump up as a result of demand from travelers and changes made in the formulation of the fuel to meet summer air quality rules. Congress had earlier mandated that the reserve, which was created in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, be shut down, which prompted the sale.

Still, the move underscored the White House’s ongoing attempts to tame prices for staples, especially with voters still feeling sour on the economy.

“By strategically releasing this reserve in between Memorial Day and July Fourth, we are ensuring sufficient supply flows to the tri-state and northeast at a time hard-working Americans need it the most,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

Biden has tried to bring down gas costs before, but often at times of acute shortages or dangerously high inflation. In 2022, prices soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine roiled global energy markets, with costs topping $5 per gallon that summer. The spike began a major drag on consumer sentiment and became a particular fixation among Biden officials convinced that the president’s waning popularity was closely tied to prices at the pump.

Costs have come down since then. On Tuesday, the national average for a gallon of gas was a smidgen under $3.60, according to AAA. But gas still continues to be a major driver of overall inflation.

The Federal Reserve is the chief government agency tasked with taming inflation. But it has a much more limited tool kit, relying on broad-based interest rates to steer the economy. Meanwhile, Biden has touted his moves to target costs ranging from prescription drugs, gas, housing and other staples, all while insisting inflation is still a top economic priority.

The decision by Congress to close the reserve was a matter of economics: It is more efficient to store unrefined petroleum than gasoline. The Energy Department will sell the gas, stored in depots in Maine and New Jersey, to the highest bidders.

The gas is expected to provide some cost relief at the pump over the Fourth of July weekend. But not very much, as the 42 million gallons of gasoline the administration will sell amounts to just a small fraction of the gasoline sold in a single day in the United States.

The move comes as the administration has been working to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which it leaned on heavily to control gas price inflation after Russia invaded Ukraine. That reserve currently has more than 367 million barrels of crude oil. Just last week, the administration announced it has agreed to purchase another 3.3 million barrels of crude to replenish the reserve. It purchased the oil for significantly less than the prices buyers paid when crude was released from the reserve in 2022.

Republicans had long been critical of the Northeast gas reserve, which was created by President Barack Obama. A Government Accountability Office report in 2022 said the gas reserve would be of limited help during an energy crisis in the region.

But Republicans also took aim at the Biden administration for the congressionally mandated sale of fuel from the reserve’s closure. They accused the White House of playing politics by trying to curry favor with voters through providing price relief at the gas pump.

Federal fuel reserves, Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) said in a statement, “should be used for real emergencies, not political emergencies caused by President Biden’s war on American energy.”

(c) Washington Post


2 COMMENTS

  1. A barrel of oil is 42 gallons. This will produce 19-20 gallons of gasoline and another 12 gallons of what would be diesel. So basically to put it in terms we will understand, this means 1 million fill ups, THIS IS A DROP IN THE BUCKET AND TYPICAL LIBERAL SYMBOLISM OVER SUBSTANCE!

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