Biden to release oil reserves to combat high gas prices

President Joe Biden visits the Port of Baltimore, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Biden's trip to the port is likely the start of a national tour to showcase the $1 trillion legislation that cleared Congress last week. Biden is pointing to Baltimore's port as a blueprint on how to reduce shipping bottlenecks that have held back the economic recovery. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By Kate Sullivan and Betsy Klein | CNN

Thirty-two million barrels will be in exchange "over the next several months," the White House said, and those barrels will eventually return to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "in the years ahead." Eighteen million barrels "will be an acceleration into the next several months of a sale of oil that Congress had previously authorized."

"American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic," the White House said in a news release. "That's why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply."

CNN previously reported Biden hoped to announce his decision to release the oil reserves during a Tuesday speech at the White House, but that the timing of such a move was still contingent on other nations finalizing their agreements.

The President is scheduled to deliver remarks Tuesday afternoon "on the economy and lowering prices for the American people," according to the White House schedule, just hours before he is set to leave for a Thanksgiving break on Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts

Biden had been privately advised in recent weeks that tapping into the reserve wouldn't do much to alleviate the current problems, but some Democratic lawmakers argued it could provide temporary relief at the pump. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was among the Democrats leading the charge.

Despite being told the impact may be negligible, the option to release oil reserves remained on the table, given Biden had few others, and officials believed coordinating with other countries could potentially have more of an effect.

The national gas price average as of Tuesday is $3.403, according to AAA, which is significantly higher than the average at the same time last year when many people were not driving or traveling as much due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unclear how much the White House effort would immediately affect prices.

The move may instead largely act as a signal to OPEC nations and Russia that the US is serious about taking action to lower prices after those nations were reluctant to ramp up oil production to reduce prices.

Biden officials have warned the Saudis for weeks that the US would find alternative solutions if the price of crude oil topped $85 a barrel, officials said, which it did late last month. But Saudi Arabia has stood firm in refusing to increase output and has priced in -- wrongly, in the view of US officials -- the possibility that the US reaches a nuclear deal with Iran, two US officials said. The Saudis' concern is that sanctions on Iran would then be rolled back, allowing the country to ramp up its oil production and compete with OPEC+.

Given that reluctance, the Biden administration viewed coordinating with the other nations as an attempt to undermine the cartel's control of the market.

"The thinking has been, we can do this alone, or we can do it internationally -- and the latter would be much more effective, especially when it comes to sending a message to the Saudis," said one senior official involved in the discussions.

Biden has taken other actions as well. Last week, the President asked the Federal Trade Commission to "immediately" investigate whether illegal activity by oil and gas companies is pushing up gas prices. That move isn't likely to have an immediate effect on gas prices for consumers, but is another example that Biden is seeking to show he is working to bring prices down. The FTC's findings could also help in the long run if they find wrongdoing. The oil industry's top advocacy group slammed that move as a "distraction."

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN's Sam Fossum, Jeff Zeleny, Kaitlan Collins, Natasha Bertrand and Matt Egan contributed to this report.

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  • To Country: United States
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  • Posted On: 11/23/2021 6:27:22 AM
  • Expiration On: 12/23/2021 6:27:22 AM
  • Last Modified On: 11/23/2021 6:27:22 AM
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