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US, allies to release oil from reserves to stabilize markets

Invasion by third-largest oil producer roiled international energy markets

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced the U.S. will release 30 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced the U.S. will release 30 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. and 30 other oil-producing nations said they would release 60 million barrels of oil from their reserves to stabilize the global energy market following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. would release 30 million barrels, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said, following a meeting Tuesday of representatives to the International Energy Agency.

“This decision reflects our common commitment to address significant market and supply disruptions related to President Putin’s war on Ukraine,” Granholm said. “We will continue advancing ongoing efforts to accelerate Europe’s diversification of energy supplies away from Russia and to secure the world from Putin’s attempts to weaponize energy supplies.”

The Biden administration did not say when the sale of U.S. petroleum would occur.

The coordinated move by IEA member countries comes less than a week after Russia, the world’s third-largest oil-producing nation behind the U.S., invaded Ukraine to its west, triggering a war that has roiled international oil markets and displaced more than half a million Ukrainian residents, many of whom are fleeing to Poland and other neighboring countries.

[Biden’s options to avert gas and energy price spikes are limited]

President Joe Biden has limited options to stabilize oil prices beyond releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a network of caverns in Texas and Louisiana, though experts say such sales have minor and brief effects on oil prices.

Biden is facing calls from Congress to issue sanctions of Russian oil and gas interests, which are central to the country’s economy, but has resisted doing so.

“It is heartening to see how quickly the global community has united to condemn Russia’s actions and respond decisively,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement. “The situation in energy markets is very serious and demands our full attention,” Birol said. “Global energy security is under threat, putting the world economy at risk during a fragile stage of the recovery.”

Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of oil and its largest exporter, according to the IEA. Roughly 60 percent of the nation’s oil exports go to Europe and 20 percent go to China.

Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., introduced legislation Tuesday to stop the U.S. import of oil from Russia.

“There is no separating Russian oil from the corruption and human rights abuses of the Putin regime,” Markey said. “We cannot criticize Europe for its reliance on Russian energy, as we pour dirty oil money into Russia.”

Late Monday, Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., urged Biden to direct sanctions against Russian petroleum interests. 

“Russian oil and gas are the lifeblood of the country’s economy,” Griffith said. “They provide leverage over European powers and finance Putin’s war machine. Russian energy should be extensively covered by sanctions as well.”

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