Vice-President Joe Biden said on Monday that the U.S. government should tap into its emergency oil reserves to prevent further gas price spikes stemming from geopolitical conflicts.
“We need to respond to gas prices that are too high,” Biden said during a roundtable with fellow Democratic energy advocates. “Yes, we should use the reserves.”
The U.S. has one of the world’s largest oil reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration, and it said last week that it will pump its reserves to bolster confidence in the oil market. The nation currently has the most-available reserves in nearly four decades.
The decision comes as American oil producers pump more oil on the futures market than at any time since 1989. The surge has been attributed to a combination of factors, including the opening of offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico and North Dakota, production technology such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the expansion of pipelines to ship oil and natural gas to new markets.
But the Obama administration also urged the use of SPR reserves during the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, when gasoline prices spiked to a record-high of more than $4 per gallon. That same year, then-Vice-President Biden traveled to the Northeast to push for public transit use, arguing that increased use of public transit would help lower fuel costs.
The administration said Monday that it wants more Americans to use energy-efficient measures such as hybrid cars and electric vehicles.
Biden spoke alongside other Democratic heavyweights – including Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, former House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California, former Clinton administration official Heather Zichal, TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling, and Tom Steyer, former hedge fund manager turned environmentalist.
Biden also touted the White House’s plan to fight global warming, pledging to fight the burning of fossil fuels by building more battery-powered vehicles and expanding new renewable energy sources.
The response to rising gas prices has been mixed. Energy industry groups have urged the federal government to increase oil exports and encourage increased oil production. But environmental groups have blasted the White House, arguing that tapping the country’s emergency oil stockpile would send an outdated message to America’s enemies.
The U.S. did not tap its reserves during the recent spike in oil prices. During OPEC’s recent agreement with Russia and other oil producers to boost oil output, Biden said that would need to wait until the next emergency, whenever it happens.
Biden said during the roundtable that a key reason gasoline prices are so high is the declining market share of U.S. oil companies. “Middle East oil producers are still the nation’s primary supplier,” he said.
More than 80 percent of U.S. oil production now comes from private oil companies, up from 60 percent in the 1970s.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.