Republicans probe oil reserve release

Republicans are examining what they described as the “potential misuse” of the nation’s oil reserves by the Biden administration, they said in a new letter released Thursday.

Thirteen Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee wrote to the Energy Department requesting documents about releases from Strategic Petroleum Reserve that were aimed at bringing down gasoline prices.

They also requested documents on whether the administration planned to ban the export of any fuels amid the administration’s call for energy companies to limit their exports of refined products like gasoline and diesel.

The administration has not said whether it would pursue a ban.

“We request documents and information to learn more about the Administration’s potential plans to ban oil and gas exports, as well as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) role in the potential misuse of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as a means to increase domestic fuel supply,” the lawmakers wrote in a Wednesday letter.

The letter was released publicly on Thursday.

President Biden announced in March that over the course of six months, his administration would release a total of 180 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve. The White House particularly touted the final release of barrels last week, with Biden highlighting the release in a speech.

In an emailed statement, the Energy Department argued that the administration was using the oil stockpile as it is intended amid market disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The SPR is a critical tool designed to address global supply disruptions, and as Putin’s war continues to create upheaval to energy markets, the Biden administration, like administrations of both parties have done in the past, is using the SPR as intended— to address supply disruptions and provide relief to American families when they need it most,” the department said.

As Republicans are in the minority, they have limited authority to conduct oversight. But any documents they ask for could signal what investigations they will pursue if they retake the majority next year.

In their letter, Republicans specifically asked the Energy Department for any communications about using the oil reserves to lower prices until November, communications with outside groups on the issue and communications with the White House.

During his speech, Biden said that the release was “not politically motivated at all.”

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