U.S. ready to release more oil reserves, Biden says ahead of midterms

The United States will release 15 million barrels of oil from its emergency reserves and will prepare for further possible releases in the latest effort to address high energy prices, President Joe Biden said Wednesday, as inflation weighs on the country weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

The 15 million barrels of oil to be sold from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- known as the world's largest supply of emergency crude oil -- represents the final tranche of the 180-million-barrel disbursement that was announced in March.

Biden defended the move against Republican criticism that the latest announcement was politically motivated to help his Democratic Party in the Nov. 8 elections, with polls showing that economic issues are the dominant concern among voters.

The president's pitch regarding his administration's efforts to bring down gas prices also came amid concerns that crude is facing renewed upward pressure, given a decision earlier this month by a coalition of oil-producing nations led by Saudi Arabia and Russia to sharply cut production.

Noting that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is more than half full with about 400 million barrels of oil, Biden said, "With my announcement today, we're going to continue to stabilize markets and decrease the prices at a time when the actions of other countries have caused such volatility."

"And I've told my team...to be prepared to...look for further releases in the months ahead if needed," Biden said. "This allows us to move quickly to prevent oil price spikes and respond to international events."

The administration also plans to repurchase crude oil for the emergency reserve when prices are at or below about $67-$72 per barrel.

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine started in February, pushing up energy prices, Biden said in late March that he had authorized the release of 1 million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for a span of six months, totaling 180 million barrels.

The administration has insisted that its move has helped bring average gas prices down by about $1.15 per gallon since a peak in June, to roughly 30 cents above the level on Feb. 24, when the war in Ukraine began.

© Kyodo News