"Today’s announcement reflects the President’s commitment to do everything in his power to bring down costs for the American people and continue our strong economic recovery," the White House noted in a statement. "At the same time, the Administration remains committed to the President’s ambitious clean energy goals."
The decision came despite opposition from domestic oil producers, with the Independent Petroleum Association of America mocking the opening of the SPR in this instance as a way to "manipulate" the market. Industry groups have demanded that the President ease up on policies restricting fossil fuel exploration and encourage production instead.
Resorting to the SPR is somewhat of a turnaround for Biden, who downplayed the effects of opening it in a CNN town hall last month.
"I could go into the petroleum reserve and take out and probably reduce the price of gas — maybe 18 cents or so a gallon. It’s still going to be above $3," Biden stated at the time.
At the time, Biden said instead that relief would mainly depend on Saudi Arabia, the de facto head of OPEC, agreeing to boost production, which the cartel has declined to do in recent weeks.
Energy officials and analysts have not offered a similar calculus to Biden's, with Stephen Nalley, Acting Administrator of the Energy Information Administration, telling the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a Nov. 16 hearing that benefits of an SPR release would be minimal and “relatively short-lived.” This, of course, depends on the amount of crude oil released.
Biden responded by urging major oil consumers in Asia to open up their stockpiles to support global supply, but the reactions he received varied. The White House said Monday that the SPR release would be accompanied by similar releases from other countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
The White House stated that the release would include accelerating the scheduled sale of 18 million barrels of oil and exchanging another 32 million barrels that would be returned to the stockpile over time.
The SPR, a national stockpile holding hundreds of millions of barrels of crude, was created in 1975 to maintain domestic oil supply in emergencies. For example, the Department of Energy opened the reserve in September after Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast.