Biden seeks to boost oil supplies ahead of midterm vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden — a president who wants to ditch fossil fuels — is rushing to boost oil supplies ahead of next month’s midterm elections.

Administration officials have teased that additional oil could be released from the US Strategic Reserve as part of a response to recent production cuts announced by OPEC+ countries. The expected loss of 2 million barrels a day – 2% of global supply – prompted the White House to say Saudi Arabia had sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin and promised to follow through on supply cuts that could push up energy prices.

Multiple White House officials say the U.S. strategic reserve holds roughly 400 million barrels of oil, and Biden could order additional releases as early as Wednesday, when Chief of Staff Ron Klein said he was ready to comment on his administration’s efforts to lower gas prices. Still, reserves are at their lowest level since 1984 after Biden announced in March the release of 180 million barrels over six months. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly before the White House announcement.

Bloomberg News reported Monday that the administration is moving toward an additional release of 10 to 15 million barrels. That range wouldn’t even cover a full day’s worth of U.S. oil, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Biden has promised to talk about his plans to lower gas prices this week.

Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said past releases of oil from the U.S. Strategic Reserve contributed to the drop in pump prices this summer. That decline ended last month when prices started to rise again, although they have moderated somewhat in the past week.

Bernstein suggested on Fox News Sunday that the reserve was large enough that the White House could use it again.

“There’s still 400 million barrels of oil in the strategic reserves — they’re more than half full,” Bernstein said, adding that Biden has yet to make a final decision on releasing more barrels.

Biden continues to face political hurdles over gas prices. AAA reports that gas is averaging $3.87 a gallon, up from a month ago when falling prices at the pump indicated the president and his fellow Democrats were doing better in the polls.

An analysis Monday by ClearView Energy Partners, an independent energy research firm based in Washington, DC, suggests the two states that could decide control of the evenly divided Senate — Nevada and Pennsylvania — are sensitive to energy prices. The analysis stated that gas prices in the past month rose above the national average in 18 states, in which there are 29 potentially “risky” seats in the House of Representatives.

Even if voters want cheaper gas, the expected gains in supply will not materialize due to a weaker global economy. The US government last week revised its forecasts downward, saying domestic companies would produce 270,000 barrels less per day in 2023 than forecast in September. Global production would be 600,000 barrels per day lower than forecast in September.

Because fossil fuels lead to carbon emissions, Biden has sought to move away from them entirely with a commitment to zero emissions by 2050. When he discussed that commitment nearly a year ago after the G-20 of leading rich and developing nations met in Rome, the president said he still wants to lower gas prices because “$3.35 a gallon has a profound impact on working-class families just to get back to work.”

Since Biden talked about the pain of $3.35 a gallon about 11 months ago and his hopes to cut costs, the price has risen another 15.5%.

Follow AP coverage of the 2022 midterm elections: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

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