By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden raised eyebrows for his decision to drain the strategic petroleum reserve this year, but now lawmakers say President Biden made a deal with Saudi Arabia “to lower gas prices before the election” only to implement Green New Deal policies once the election was over.
Oversight committee Republicans are investigating, led by U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.
Mr. Comer sent letters to several Biden administration officials, demanding documents, records and communications on the the matter. One of those letters, dated Dec. 4, went to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, raising questions about President Biden’s Saudi Arabia trip over the summer.
“The New York Times reported that Biden Administration officials believed President Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia in August 2022 ‘could shore up a Saudi commitment to convince OPEC to increase oil production.’ Instead, on October 5, 2022, Saudi Arabia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its affiliates (OPEC+) slashed production by two million barrels a day. According to press reports, this decision infuriated the Biden Administration officials who sought the deal to provide temporary fuel price reductions before the November midterm elections,” the letter said. “If the Administration is brokering secret agreements to the detriment of American energy producers and for campaign purposes, the American people deserve to know.”
Gas prices hit record highs this summer, surpassing $5 per gallon for regular gasoline, before dipping down again. The average price for regular gas nationwide is $3.40 per gallon, helped by about 200 million barrels of oil released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Prices, though lower than the peak in June, are still much higher than when President Biden took office.
President Biden reportedly hoped those reserves and cooperation from OPEC would get prices down and help Democrats fend off midterm losses. OPEC announced it would cut production, which was expected to increase prices, but not until November. Whether intentional or not, this delayed most price increases until after election day. Notably, gas prices have steadily dropped in recent weeks, regardless of OPEC’s decision, at least for now.
Biden officials are reportedly looking at buying oil to restock the reserves, though at a high cost to taxpayers given the elevated prices. Critics say President Biden used foreign relationships and American tax dollars to artificially lower gas prices before the midterm elections.
“Joe Biden released millions of barrels from the strategic reserve because in his mind, there was a huge emergency: Democrats were at risk of losing the Senate,” said Daniel Turner, head of the energy workers advocacy group, Power the Future. “And now America has perilously low reserves, and Biden will have to refill them at a premium, but this all makes sense when you understand all Biden has ever cared about is power.”
President Biden has defended his energy policies, pointing out he got gas prices down from record highs earlier this year.
“Gas prices have declined by an average of $1.60 a gallon over the past 173 days and are now back to the levels they were at in early February,” President Biden said. “That’s great news.”
Republicans and the energy industry have been blasting President Biden for his energy policies, but climate change activists have praised President Biden’s steps for the environment.
The investigation is one of several from Republican lawmakers emboldened by their new majority in the House of Representatives.
“Oversight Republicans have pushed senior Biden Administration officials for answers and will continue to seek their plans to reverse energy policies detrimental to the American people and our national security,” Rep. Comer said. “With the power of the gavel, we will hold the Biden Administration responsible for recklessly attacking a critical industry that provides the American people affordable energy and good-paying job opportunities.”