WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 03rd February, 2023) The US Energy Department has not asked Congress to halt sales of oil it has been approved for but not used under this year's allocation from the nation's emergency reserve, a department spokesperson told Sputnik.
Bloomberg, citing an interview with US Energy Secretary David Turk, reported earlier on Thursday that the Energy Department had told Congress to halt the sales of 26 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) it has been mandated for but not used under fiscal year 2023.
"That's not an accurate story," Energy Department spokesperson told Sputnik. "I'm pretty sure that article is going to be updated."
Bloomberg reported that the Energy Department's request came on the heels of successful efforts to cancel some 140 million barrels of sales from the SPR mandated by Congress over fiscal year 2024 through fiscal year 2027 to help pay for unrelated legislative initiatives.
Turk apparently said during his interview with the news service that the department is "having ongoing conversations" about canceling the fiscal year 2023 sales as well. "It's legislatively mandated so the ball is in their court," Turk was quoted as saying. "If we are putting oil out, we can't put oil back in."
The Biden administration has stopped pulling crude oil from the SPR since mid-January as it attempts to rebuild the reserve after it drew some 220 million barrels to keep fuel prices low for Americans.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA), which serves as the statistical arm of the Energy Department, reported a SPR crude balance of 371.6 million barrels at the end of the week to January 13, when the draws stopped.
The zero SPR draw last week closed the chapter on the 220 million barrels taken from the emergency oil reserve since November 2021 by the Biden administration to provide more crude to the marketplace and bring pump prices of gasoline down.
Prior to those draws, SPR inventories stood at just under 600 million barrels. At their current level of just above 370 million, the reserve's stockpiles are at their lowest since December 1983, the EIA said.
At one time, the Biden administration drew as much as 8 million barrels a week from the reserve. The crude releases from the SPR, along with other global market developments, added to international oil supplies over the past year, slashing crude prices from a high of more than $130 a barrel in early March, right after the outbreak of fighting in Ukraine, to current levels of around $80 a barrel or below.
Pump prices of gasoline fell to below $3 a gallon at the pump in some parts of the United States by late last year from a mid-June record high of $5 as the SPR draws flooded the domestic marketplace for crude. Gasoline at US pumps now average just below $3.50 a gallon, the American automobile Association said on Thursday.
The Biden administration said late last year that it was preparing to wind down its dependence on the SPR and was ready to add to its inventory. The administration is negotiating purchases with U.S. energy firms to refill the reserve, starting with a base offer of $70 per barrel. Trade in US crude settled at under $76 a barrel on Thursday.