A maze of crude oil pipes and equipment can be seen at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, with the American and Texas flags flying in the background.
Richard Carson | Reuters
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill aimed at limiting the president’s ability to tap the country’s strategic oil reserve for reasons other than a “serious disruption in energy supplies.”
The law aims to prevent a repeat of President Joe Biden’s numerous exits from the SPR in 2022, which Republicans say should lower consumer gas prices ahead of the midterm elections
The bill passed by a near-line vote of 221 to 205 after more than six hours of individual House votes on various proposed changes.
The law, passed on Friday, titled the Strategic Production Response Act, would ban all new claims on the SPR until federal agencies develop a plan to lease state land for oil and gas exploration “by the same percentage as the percentage of petroleum … that means deducting,” says the text of the law.
Despite passage through the House of Representatives, it is all but certain that the legislation will never go into effect. It lacks the support to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House has said Biden will veto it if it ever gets on his desk.
Days before the vote, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said at a White House news briefing that the bill would “impose unnecessary, unhelpful restrictions on when the SPR can be used to support supply.”
“It would bring no tangible benefits to the American people,” Granholm told reporters. “Instead, it would affect our ability to respond to an international emergency … a natural disaster or pipeline failure at home.”
The White House has long argued that the SPR’s releases over the past year were necessary to offset increases in pump prices triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, Republicans counter that the size of the total release in 2022, 180 million barrels, was excessive and that individual releases and announcements of future releases were timed to provide maximum political benefit to Democrats.
Over the past year, the total amount of oil in the reserve has dwindled to about 380 million barrels, the lowest level since 1984, raising energy security concerns.
When Biden took office in 2021, the SPR contained 638 million barrels.
Friday’s legislation marked the second time the GOP-controlled House has passed legislation related to the SPR. The first banned the sale of oil reserves to Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. It was passed with bipartisan support.
After Friday’s passage, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, welcomed the bill’s lead sponsor.
“President Biden has turned a long-standing bipartisan strategic asset, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, into a political tool to cover up the consequences of his expensive rush-to-green agenda,” she said in a statement.
The legislation “provides a way to make energy more affordable and reliable for Americans while preserving the vital and central purpose of the SPR — providing oil supplies to Americans in genuine emergencies and not diverting them for non-emergency political purposes.” added her .
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