Facing tough midterms, Biden releasing oil from US reserve
WASHINGTON — High gasoline prices are the problem that President Joe Biden keeps trying to fix — and roughly a year’s worth of extraordinary efforts have done little to significantly lower costs.
With Biden’s latest push Wednesday to release 15 million barrels from the U.S. strategic reserve and consider additional withdrawals this winter, he’s telling frustrated voters ahead of the midterm elections that the White House hasn’t given up. He denied that politics played any role in his latest action. The issue has clear political implications. President Trump’s approval rating has shifted in the opposite direction to gasoline prices. They remain high despite falling since June’s peak.
“They’re not falling fast enough,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “Families are suffering. You’ve heard me say it before, but I get it.”
Biden has consistently said that high prices are the fault of Russia invading Ukraine at the start of this year. The president attributes any declines in gas prices, no matter how large, to his policies. Biden denied that his latest move was about the upcoming election, even though he said to The Associated Press earlier this year in an interview that his approval ratings seem not to be moving in the same direction as gas prices.
” “It’s certainly not politically motivated at any time,” Biden stated Wednesday in response to questions from reporters.
The question is still open as to whether the announcement will make a difference in November’s Senate and House races that could be decided by razor thin margins. Biden’s announcement comes at a time when gas prices have fallen over the past two week. However, a gallon of gasoline still costs $3. 85, up from a year ago when Biden called $3. 35 a gallon a strain on families and from roughly $2. 40 a gallon during his 2021 inaugural.
Wednesday’s announcement completes the release of 180 million barrels authorized by Biden in March that was initially supposed to occur over six months. Biden also had ordered the release of 50 million barrels in November 2021 and promised to investigate the possibility of price gouging.
The withdrawals have lowered the nation’s strategic reserves to their lowest level since 1984. This was a “bridge” that the administration said would allow for domestic production to increase. The reserve now contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil, a level that opponents say has more to do with Biden’s attempts to help his fellow Democrats than spur more oil production in the U.S.
During Tuesday night’s Florida Senate debate between Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, Rubio complained that the U.S. is “begging” other countries for oil and depleting its own reserves to help Democratic candidates.
” Our oil reserves are not there to win midterms,” Rubio stated. “They exist to help this country in an emergency or in the midst of a storm.”
The president’s political fortunes do appear to be tied to gas prices. In AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs polling, support for Biden recovered from a low of 36% in July to 45% in September. This period coincided with a decline of prices from record highs. Prices rose again towards the end of September, but have been slowly declining in recent weeks.
Biden wants to allow additional oil releases this winter to help keep prices down. Administration officials did not specify how much the president would tap or how much they would like domestic production to increase in order to stop the withdrawals.
Biden said the U.S. government will restock the strategic reserve when oil prices are at or lower than $67 to $72 a barrel, which administration officials said will support domestic production by guaranteeing a baseline level of demand. He also criticized the profits made by oil companies, repeating a wager made this summer that public criticism would be more important to them than shareholders’ attention on returns.
The offer to repurchase oil in order to fill the reserve could have meaning for voters as it could lead the United States to produce more oil. This could help to blunt Republican criticisms that Biden should increase production by making more federal lands available to drilling and approving the construction of transportation pipelines. ClearView Energy Partners, an independent energy research company based in Washington, found Monday that two states that could decide the control of the evenly divided Senate — Nevada, and Pennsylvania — are sensitive about energy prices. The analysis noted that gas prices over the past month rose above the national average in 18 states, which are home to 29 potentially “at risk” House seats. ClearView’s managing director, Kevin Book, stated in a follow up analysis that the federal offer of oil to purchase oil for the reserve “could provide at-risk Democrats in moderate areas with some oil-friendly collateral.” It also could give President Biden a pro-oil talking point before he goes to the producer (and swing) state of Pennsylvania on Thursday.”
The call to increase production marks the continuation of an about-face by Biden, who has tried to move the U.S. past fossil fuels and toward additional sources of energy to satisfy U.S. and global supply as a result of disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and production cuts announced by the Saudi Arabia-led oil cartel. The potential loss of 2,000,000 barrels per day — 2% global supply — by OPEC has led to the White House stating that Saudi Arabia sided alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising consequences for supply cuts that could support energy prices. Biden’s latest 15 million-barrel release would not cover even one full day’s use of oil in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration.
Even though voters want cheaper gasoline, the expected supply gains are not being realized due to a weaker global economic. The U.S. government last week revised downward its forecasts, saying that domestic firms would produce 270,000 fewer barrels a day in 2023 than was forecast in September. Global production would be 600,000 barrels a day lower than forecast in September.
The hard math for Biden is that oil production has yet to return to its pre-pandemic level of roughly 13 million barrels a day. The revised government forecast is that production will average 12.4 million barrels next year.
Biden stated that his commitment to replenishing the reserves should give U.S. oil companies enough confidence to increase production, even though the administration pushes for renewable energy.
“We are giving you more certainty so that you can act now in order to increase oil production,” Biden stated.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap–politics
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