The Republican-controlled House on Thursday voted to block oil from the country emergency stockpile from going to China.
The bill, one of the first introduced by the new GOP majority, would prohibit the Energy Department from selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to companies owned or influenced by the Chinese Communist Party. It quickly passed, 331-97, with 113 Democrats joining unanimous Republicans in support.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill would help end what she called President Joe Biden’s “abuse of our strategic reserve.”
Biden withdrew 180 million barrels from the strategic reserve last year in a bid halted the rise in fuel prices amid OPEC production cuts and a ban on Russian oil imports following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The monthly sales brought the stockpile to its lowest level since the 1980s. The administration said last month that it will start replenishing the reserve now that oil prices have dropped.
McMorris Rodgers accused Biden of using the reserve to “cover up his failed policies” that he said have driven up energy prices and inflation.
“Draining our strategic reserve for political purposes and selling it to China is a significant threat to our national and energy security. It must be stopped,” said McMorris Rodgers.
The move is the first in a series of GOP proposals aimed at “liberating American energy production,” McMorris Rodgers said as Republicans seek to boost production of oil, natural gas and other resources. fossil fuels in the US.
“There is more to come. This is just the beginning,” he said.
Democrats, including former Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, said Republicans are trying to fix a problem of their own making. China is one of many potential adversaries buying US oil after the The GOP-led Congress lifted the export ban in 2015.
“If the Republicans were serious about solving this issue, they could have brought a bill banning all oil exports to China,” Pallone said, adding that sales from the strategic reserve amounted to of about 2% of US oil sold to China last year.
“If we really want to deal with China using American oil to build its reserves, let’s take that seriously, instead of sugarcoating the issue because Republicans fear the wrath of Big Oil,” Pallone said.
The current process allows for the sale of crude oil from the strategic reserve to companies that make the highest bids, which include US subsidiaries of foreign oil companies, and they can export that crude oil. abroad. Last year, millions of barrels of oil from US reserves were exported to China, including to a subsidiary of China’s state-run oil company, Sinopec.
The Department of Energy said in a statement Thursday that Biden “properly authorized the emergency use” of the strategic reserve, also known as the SPR, to address supply disruptions and “provide relief to American families and refineries if necessary.”
The Treasury Department estimates that the release of oil from the emergency stockpile has lowered pump prices by up to 40 cents per gallon. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, averaged about $3.27 per gallon on Thursday, down from more than $5 per gallon at their peak in June, according to the AAA auto club.
“By law we are required to choose the highest value bid to ensure the best return to taxpayers, and since 2017 most of the oil sold from the reserve has been sold to American entities,” the Energy Department said. Over the past five years, less than 3% of oil from the strategic reserve has gone to China, officials said.
The House bill now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced a similar measure.
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