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President Biden is expected to announce on Thursday a plan to draw 1 million barrels of oil per day for the next six months from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve — an unprecedented push to use the stocks to try to take the edge off of soaring gasoline prices.
Other oil-consuming countries with reserves are expected to join with releases of their own, the White House said in a release.
The plan to add up to 180 million barrels of U.S. oil reserves onto the market would be by far the biggest-ever draw from the emergency stockpile of oil, held underground in salt caverns in Louisiana and Texas.
In contrast, the administration tapped the stocks for 50 million barrels in November 2021, and an additional 30 million barrels at the beginning of this month — moves that had only temporary impacts on climbing prices.
There were about 580 million barrels of oil in the U.S. reserves in February, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That means this new plan could draw down total reserves by about a third.
Price inflation — including painfully high gas prices — is a top issue for voters, and Democrats are concerned it could hurt them in the November congressional elections. Prices began rising a year ago as the economy picked up in the wake of the pandemic and have been extremely volatile since January, as it became clearer that Russia would invade Ukraine.
Republicans have sought to pin the blame for higher prices squarely on Biden. Biden and Democrats have deflected blame for rising oil prices on Russia, a major oil exporter whose shipments have been somewhat crimped by financial sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.
While the United States has banned imports of Russian oil, most importers have not — but there have been some signs that transactions have been affected by shippers and insurers worried about stepping afoul of Western sanctions on Moscow.
The White House also announced it would use the Defense Production Act to support production of other materials used in electric car batteries — namely lithium and nickel. Trying to escape rising gas costs, Americans are flocking to electric vehicles and many of those materials are in China and other countries.
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