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President Biden Unveils Historic 180 Million Barrel Release from Strategic Petroleum Reserve; Oil Slides


Updated at 12:36 am EST

The White House unveiled the biggest-ever release of crude from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve Thursday as President Joe Biden looks to dampen the impact of record high energy prices and the fastest domestic inflation rates in more than four decades.

The President authorized the release of 180 million barrels from the SPR, spread over six months, in order to bring down global crude prices and ease the supply hit from Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The move marks the third release from the SPR in six months, and the largest-ever from the nation’s emergency stockpile, which sits at the lowest levels since 2002, according to Energy Department data published Wednesday.

“Americans face rising prices at the pump because of Putin’s Price Hike. Since Putin accelerated his military build-up around Ukraine, gas prices have increased by nearly a dollar per gallon,” the White House said in a statement published on its website. “Because of Putin’s war of choice, less oil is getting to market, and the reduction in supply is raising prices at the pump for Americans. President Biden is committed to doing everything in his power to help American families who are paying more out of pocket as a result.” 

“The scale of this release is unprecedented: the world has never had a release of oil reserves at this 1 million per day rate for this length of time,” the statement added. “This record release will provide a historic amount of supply to serve as bridge until the end of the year when domestic production ramps up.”

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WTI crude futures for May delivery were marked $3.90 lower from Wednesday’s close at $103.92 per barrel following the White House statement, while Brent contracts for the same month, the global pricing benchmark, fell $5.15 to trade at $108.30 per barrel.

OPEC leaders, as well as non-member allies, also met today in Vienna to discuss output levels, but the cartel, as widely-expected, maintained the gradual pace of production increases, adding around 400,000 barrels per day to the global market. 

Recent moves to release crude from the emergency store have had the opposite affect on markets, however, with U.S. crude prices rising 18.6% from the time Biden first tapped the SPR in late November to the extended spike triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. 

Prior to that, global oil prices rose 12% in the two weeks following President Barack Obama’s decision to release 30 million barrels from the SPR in June of 2011 to offset supply disruptions linked to the civil war in Libya. 

Sanctions on the sale of Russian crude, as well as the shutdown of a key export hub operated by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which accounts for about 1% of global output, have also helped lift crude prices since the late February invasion.

U.S. gasoline prices, which reached an all-time high of $4.331 per gallon on March 11, were also likely to move, with the AAA pegging the average national cost per gallon at $4.225 per gallon.

Exxon Mobil  (XOM) – Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report shares were marked 0.13% higher in early trading Thursday at $83.88 each while Chevron  (CVX) – Get Chevron Corporation Report fell 0.4% to $164.78 and Occidental Petroleum  (OXY) – Get Occidental Petroleum Corporation Report — the latest strategic investment of billionaire Warren Buffett — gained 1.5% to $58.33 each.

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