(Nov. 24) President Joe Biden was dead wrong in his decision this week to order the release of 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

No matter how many times in the past three decades lawmakers have directed sales or, in some cases, purchases from the strategic reserve to affect prices or to plug federal budget holes, they always were wrong. The strategic reserve is not intended for or effective at market manipulation, much less eliminating federal debt. It is there to help keep energy supplies flowing in case of an emergency disruption of supplies.

This shouldn’t be a difficult concept: Price fluctuations aren’t a national emergency. Every time petroleum is sold from the strategic reserve, the United States becomes that much less able to handle an actual major shortage. By ordering the sale of 50 million barrels, Biden recklessly reduces national emergency preparedness while barely making a dent in the actual price of gasoline.

Indeed, the market scoffed at Biden’s move as oil prices actually rose between 2-3% in the day after his foolish announcement. The 50 million barrels would provide less than three days of the nation’s ordinary oil usage, so right now, it causes barely a ripple. Yet, if a natural disaster or major accident halted production of new oil, those three days could be crucial.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve once topped out at 727 million barrels in 2009. Good stewardship would keep it always near 700 million barrels until true catastrophe strikes. Instead, the strategic reserve already had been bled down to 605 million barrels before Biden’s order. Therefore, in one stroke, the president reduces the already-low emergency capacity by another twelfth. That twelfth, those extra three days, could be the difference after a catastrophe between successfully outlasting a major production disruption and, on the other hand, fomenting civil unrest if supplies run entirely dry. … [Read the full column here.]


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