Energy Secretary Rick Perry ruled out using federally controlled strategic oil reserves to possibly alleviate prices at the pump.
“That’s not what it’s there for,” Perry told reporters during a Monday morning press briefing, adding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is meant for emergencies and shouldn’t be used as a “market manipulator.”
“It’s there for emergencies,” said Perry, the former governor of Texas. “We’re going to do everything we can in our country to keep gasoline prices reasonable.”
“Our role is to get out of the way of the private sector,” Perry said.
The SPR was set up in the wake of the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. The federal government controls 665 million barrels of oil spread throughout four underground caverns along the Gulf Coast. (RELATED: Poll Suggests Utah Could Be Next State To Follow California’s Lead On Gas Taxes)t
SPR oil is typically released in response to natural disasters, but increasingly Congress has been using the strategic reserve to fund various programs. GOP-led tax cuts and the bipartisan budget agreement in 2018 called for SPR sales.
The Energy Information Administration noted that “the SPR could decline from 695 million barrels at the start of 2017 to about 410 million barrels at the start of 2028” based on current legislation.
If President Donald Trump did release SPR to alleviate high oil prices, he would not be the first president to do so. Former President Barack Obama released 30 million barrels of oil from the SPR in response to supply disruptions in Libya.
The average U.S. gasoline price is up about 60 cents a gallon in the last year, from $2.27 per gallon to $2.85 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association.
Prices have increased due to a variety of factors, including production cuts from Russia and OPEC, increased demand and utter chaos in Venezuela. Trump administration sanctions on Iran have also had an impact.
Democrats have tried to pin high gas prices on Trump’s policies, but those same lawmakers in the past backed taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and other policies that would have raised gas prices.
Russia and OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, agreed to “measurable” oil supply increases, which would help alleviate prices. However, oil prices rose on the Russia-OPEC announcement because no firm production figures were given.
Perry said the jump in oil prices have been a “compounding factor to the average American consumer.” Perry is set to meet Russian oil minister Alexander Novak on Tuesday, but he told reporters he doubted oil prices or a potential SPR release would be discuss.
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