A government watchdog filed a lawsuit last week over the Department of Energy’s refusal to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the administration’s use of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR).
The Functional Government Initiative (FGI), a nonprofit transparency group based in Washington D.C., filed the suit after the department stonewalled demands to release documents under the federal transparency law offering insight into official deliberations on tapping the emergency reserves for political purposes.
“With each release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we weaken our ability to respond to a legitimate supply crisis,” FGI spokesman Peter McGinnis said in a press release Thursday. “The SPR was created to respond to real emergencies, a category that does not include falling poll numbers caused by a failed energy policy. Americans deserve to know if political motives are behind moves that put their security at risk.”
The FGI launched its investigation in January two months after President Biden tapped the nation’s oil reserves ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. The White House put 50 million barrels on the market to quell rising gas prices only for pressure at the pump to reach new heights weeks later as a consequence of the Biden-engineered scarcity.
President Biden has again tapped the emergency reserves twice since November, announcing both on the first and final days of March the release of 30 million and 180 million barrels respectively. The latter release is being drawn out over six months and is slated to end in October to coincide with the fall midterm season.
By November, Biden will have drawn down the 260 million barrels from the nation’s emergency reserves within two years of inauguration, leaving the stockpile at its lowest level since 1986. On Tuesday, Reuters revealed 5 million went overseas to countries such as India, the Netherlands, and China.
This spring, the Department of Energy announced plans to replenish only 60 million barrels of what’s been released despite an authorized storage capacity of 714 million barrels. According to the Energy Information Administration, just more than 492,000 barrels remained in storage on July 1 exactly one month into the six-month hurricane season. Atlantic superstorms hampering Gulf Coast production have historically provoked presidential releases from the emergency reserves as opposed to their contemporary service as desperate levers for political capital.
The SPR was established by Congress in the aftermath of the 1970s energy crises when Arab countries implemented an oil embargo to the United States. The reserves are intended to maintain a reliable stockpile in the event of a major disruption in supply such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the cyclone knocked out 95 percent of the region’s crude output and 88 percent of its natural gas production, President George W. Bush released 30 million barrels of oil onto the market.
The only sudden supply disruption to hit the United States under the Biden administration, however, came from the Colonial Pipeline hack when the company operating the East Coast’s largest pipeline were hit with a ransomware attack. Biden didn’t order his first release from the petroleum reserves, however, until his administration’s anti-fossil fuel agenda spiked gas prices headed into the November holiday.
Last month, the nationwide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline eclipsed $5 for the first time, despite the president’s efforts to artificially suppress rising prices with the emergency reserves. On Thursday, prices remained high at $4.75 per gallon, according to AAA travel agency, while Americans cope with accelerating inflation. The high prices are a reflection of self-inflicted scarcities in supply after months of animosity toward the industry from the Biden administration, which is telling Americans to simply buy expensive electric cars.
Last week, the animosity continued with federal officials preparing to cancel oil and gas projects in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Biden’s director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese, said the administration’s commitment to usher in the “liberal world order” was more important than American access to affordable gas.