The Biden administration exported more than 5 million barrels of oil from its emergency reserves that were released in order to combat sky-high gas prices here at home, according to a report.
The US sent the oil, which was taken from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) that the Biden administration tapped into in hopes of getting mounting energy prices under control, to Asia and Europe, Reuters is reporting.
The release of around 1 million barrels a day from the SPR through October has had a minimal effect in decreasing the price of oil. At the same time, it has depleted the reserves to their lowest level since 1986.
Brent crude futures were slightly higher on Wednesday, rising more than 1.3% to around $104 per barrel while US West Texas Intermediate rose 0.65% to eclipse $100 per barrel.
Fears of a recession pushed oil prices downward in recent weeks, but Americans were still feeling the pain at the pump.
The nationwide average price of a gallon of regular unleaded was costing American motorists $4.78 — or 52% higher than the $3.13 that drivers were paying a year ago.
Motorists in California are paying an average of $6.22 per gallon at the pump — the highest in the nation.
While the price of gas has fallen by as much as 15 cents in the last three weeks in some states, AAA is warning that the relief is short-lived as Americans gear up for peak driving season in July, which will likely put a further strain on limited supply.
The Biden administration has defended its decision to release oil from the reserves, saying that doing so prevented gas prices from spiking even further.
“The SPR remains a critical energy security tool to address global crude oil supply disruptions,” a Department of Energy spokesperson told Reuters, adding that the emergency releases helped ensure stable supply of crude oil.
US Customs data showed that Phillips 66, which is the fourth-largest oil refiner in the country, shipped some 470,000 barrels of sour crude from the Big Hill SPR storage facility in Texas to Trieste, Italy.
Trieste is where oil is loaded into a pipeline that transports it to destinations in Central Europe. The European Union is aiming to replace energy sources that were lost as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Atlantic Trading & Marketing, an arm of French oil major TotalEnergies, exported two cargoes of 560,000 barrels each, the data showed.
Cargoes of SPR crude were also headed to the Netherlands and to a Reliance refinery in India, an industry source said. A third cargo headed to China, another source said.
At least one cargo of crude from the West Hackberry SPR site in Louisiana was set to be exported in July, a shipping source added.
US crude inventories are the lowest since 2004 as refineries run near peak levels. Refineries in the US Gulf Coast were at 97.9% utilization, the most in three and a half years.