Joe Biden, Under Fire Over Inflation, Moves to Bring Down Gas Prices Before Thanksgiving

President Joe Biden has authorized the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in an effort to ease gas prices ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The decision comes as the president has faced criticism for rising prices amid record levels of inflation and what the Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledged as the highest oil prices in seven years.

There had been speculation in October that the Biden administration could tap the reserve after Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told The Financial Times' energy transition summit that they had not ruled out the possibility.

The DOE issued a statement on Tuesday saying the president had directed Granholm to release 50 million barrels of crude oil from the SPR.

"As the global economy recovers from the pandemic, oil supply has failed to increase at a pace necessary to meet demand," the statement said.

"Today's decision is in response to the highest oil prices experienced in seven years and aims to ensure adequate supply as we exit the pandemic. For the first time, as the result of the President's leadership, today's announcement is in parallel with other major energy consuming nations including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom," the DOE said.

The Biden administration has been working for weeks to convince those nations to make a coordinated release of oil reserves and appears to have been successful, with India alone planning to sell five million barrels from its strategic stockpile.

Secretary Granholm said in a statement: "As we come out of an unprecedented global economic shutdown, oil supply has not kept up with demand, forcing working families and businesses to pay the price."

"This action underscores the President's commitment to using the tools available to bring down costs for working families and to continue our economic recovery," she said.

The White House also issued a statement on Tuesday directly linking the release from the reserve with lower prices at the pumps.

"American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic," the White House said.

"That's why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply."

The coordinated oil release follows Biden's failure to convince countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and their allies, known collectively as OPEC+, to increase production beyond what they had already agreed. It remains to be seen how the group will respond to Tuesday's news.

The move comes as Americans experience price rises across a range of goods, including fuel and food. The Consumer Price Index for October recorded a 6.2 percent increase year on year. That's the largest rise in 30 years.

The price of gas stood at around $3.40 per gallon on Tuesday morning, according to GasBuddy, a company that compiles real-time gas prices across the nation.

Republicans have criticized Biden for rising prices with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addressing the issue from the Senate floor last week.

"The three biggest drivers of the staggering 6.2 percent inflation rate we logged last month were housing, transportation, and food," McConnell said. "Those aren't luxuries, they're essentials, and they take up a much bigger share of families' budgets from the middle class on down."

The White House's Tuesday statement also reiterated that the Biden administration has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look at the oil and gas markets to determine "whether illegal conduct is costing families at the pump."

Biden Walks to the West Wing
U.S. President Joe Biden walks to the West Wing from Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on November 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden has authorized the release of 50 million barrels of crude oil from U.S. reserves. Samuel Corum/Getty Images