President Joe Biden was noncommittal about ordering a release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to address rising crude oil prices after the OPEC+ coalition rejected calls from the US and other major oil-consuming countries to increase output beyond what was planned in December. The White House has accused OPEC and its allies of jeopardizing the global economic recovery. As a result, they refused to pump more oil, a move that could prompt the administration to try to address rising prices on its own by tapping into the SPR, the world’s largest backup oil supply with a capacity of 714 million barrels.
Biden told reporters, “I’m not anticipating that OPEC would respond, that Russia and/or Saudi Arabia would respond. They’re gonna pump some more oil. Whether they pump enough oil is a different thing.” Nevertheless, a release from the SPR, which is intended to buffer the US from a significant disruption in oil supply, would likely only provide minor, short-term relief from increasing gas prices. Last month, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated that tapping into the SPR was being seriously considered, although the agency later clarified that there was no “urgent plan” to do so.
Only the US president has the authority to authorize the release of petroleum from those stockpiles. OPEC and its partners have so far declined to dramatically increase supply, despite the White House’s appeals, after agreeing to record output cutbacks of around 10 million barrels per day.
The majority of the emergency cuts have been maintained, giving the oil market time to recover and work off the surplus created by the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, market forces forced oil corporations in the United States to cut production. After peaking at 12.9 million barrels per day in November 2019, US oil production plummeted to just 10 million barrels per day in May 2020.