President Biden yesterday announced plans to release over 180 million barrels of oil (30 percent) from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve over six months in an attempt to lower gas prices as "a wartime bridge to increase oil supply until production ramps up later this year." "My plan is going to help ease that pain today and safeguard against tomorrow," said Biden. "It's time to deliver true, long-term energy independence in America once and for all. And I'm going to continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect you from Putin's price hike." There are two words that describe someone who promises one thing and does the opposite. One is politician. The other is liar.
"I don't think they're going to convince anybody that Putin is the reason for high gas prices," responded Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on "Washington Watch." "That started at the beginning of the year and has escalated." It's true. World oil prices have experienced a series of supply shocks since the historically low prices in 2020 (due to COVID-19 lockdowns), beginning long before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.
Neither are all the supply shocks President Biden's fault, technically speaking. For instance, Biden didn't order the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline last year. Besides, no president has authority to mandate the price of oil, gasoline, or any other commodity.
But in another sense, President Biden does deserve criticism. In a free market economy, the government's role is to create an environment where the free exchange of goods and services can prosper, and then leave private industry to do the work. Since day one, President Biden has used every tool at his disposal to constrain, not enable, domestic oil production. "In 2019... we were energy independent. We were actually exporting oil and gas," said McConnell. When Biden entered the White House, McConnell continued, he blocked "new leases on public lands, cancelled the Keystone Pipeline," and is "doing everything... to make it very difficult for us to produce domestically."
President Biden's "wartime bridge" leads to nowhere because the Biden administration is blocking new domestic oil production. If Biden meant that other nations will temporarily pump more oil, he's so far failed to convince them. His empty promise is as credible as his false prediction of temporary inflation.
To make matters worse, Biden announced this "wartime bridge" in peacetime. "This is not the kind of thing that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was intended to be used for," said McConnell. It's right there in the name: "strategic." After the 1970s oil scare, the U.S. began stockpiling oil to fuel our tanks and jets in wartime. U.S. forces aren't engaged in a war. After needlessly creating a domestic crisis, Biden plans to pour out America's strategic security in hopes of a brief political victory. Ironically, when oil prices reached pandemic lows, "we tried to purchase a lot of oil and gas to beef up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," said McConnell. "The Democrats in Congress blocked it," calling it a "bailout for big oil."
Finally, that "wartime bridge" is already underwater. "Tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve will have about as much impact as dropping a pebble in the ocean," said McConnell. Global oil production (and consumption) hovers around 100 million barrels per day, so Biden's proposal to release 1 million barrels of oil per day will increase supply by one percent, assuming (without good reason) that his splurge won't affect production.
Of course, there is a way to "deliver true, long-term energy independence in America." "Change directions in favor of domestic fuel production," said McConnell. President Biden simply doesn't want to.