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- The Biden administration did, indeed, lower the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its lowest level since 1983.
- But that's not the only thing Biden did to combat high oil prices.
- And it's inaccurate to say Biden "caused" an energy crisis.
A North Carolina congressman says President Joe Biden caused an energy crisis in America and that his administration has done little to address it.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., took to social media on Jan. 12 to draw attention to rising gasoline prices and express concern for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is maintained to guard against disruptions in the oil market.
"Joe Biden’s war on American energy caused this crisis and his only response has been to drain our strategic petroleum reserve to its lowest level since 1983," he tweeted from his campaign account.
Hudson’s tweet raises three questions: Did Biden cause a rise in gas prices and an energy crisis? Did Biden drain the strategic petroleum reserve to its lowest level since 1983? And has that been Biden’s "only response" to what Hudson says described as an "energy crisis"?
Hudson is right about the levels of the U.S. oil reserve. They’re at the lowest level in about 40 years.
But his assertion that Biden caused an energy crisis — a claim that PolitiFact previously debunked — is inaccurate, and his tweet overlooks some of the actions the Biden administration has taken to address fuel access.
"It’s a profoundly misguided tweet, if not deliberately omitting context," Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com, said in an email.
PolitiFact North Carolina contacted Hudson’s office seeking comment about the tweets. In an email, Hudson spokesman Greg Steele cited a report by the Republican Study Committee, a group of Republicans in the U.S. House, listing 81 Biden administration actions that affected the energy market.
"In his first week in office, President Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and suspended new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on federal lands and water. This, along with his campaign promise to ‘end fossil fuel,’ sent a direct message to domestic energy producers," Steele wrote in an email.
Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline played little to no role in the price of gas or any energy crisis in the U.S., experts have told PolitiFact.
The pipeline, which would have transported crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, would have taken years to build and likely faced legal challenges. So it would not have satisfied U.S. demand in the past two years, PolitiFact previously reported.
On the whole, Steele’s email didn’t provide evidence proving that Biden caused an energy crisis. Claims that Biden caused the crisis have been debunked by multiple news organizations, including The Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post, among others.
Biden did sign sanctions against Russia that played a role in reducing the global oil supply. But he wasn’t alone; others — including the U.K. and the EU — have also imposed sanctions. Meanwhile, experts including De Hann say normalization following the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, and oil restrictions imposed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, were also big reasons for disruptions in the U.S. energy market.
That constellation of factors sent gas prices to a record high last year — not a U.S. president alone, De Haan said.
"If anything, the blame lies more with COVID and Putin," Hugh Daigle, a professor in the University of Texas at Austin Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, said in an email, adding: "One could argue that we have emerged from that crisis."
The average price of a gallon of regular gas in North Carolina was $3.36 as of Jan. 25, according to AAA. That’s down from the highest recorded average — $4.67, set in June 2022.
To address high gas prices, the Biden administration in March announced a directive to release an average of 1 million barrels of crude oil per day for six months. By January, data on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s weekly stock of crude oil showed there were 371 million barrels — the lowest level since 1983.
"While analysts could argue the merit of the release, it has acted to cool oil prices," De Haan said.
The Inflation Reduction Act signed by Biden last year features $36 billion to incentivize more electric car purchases over the next decade, the Washington Post reported. Although the new law hasn’t had an immediate impact on U.S. fuel shortages, the law is nonetheless an effort to pivot the U.S. away from a reliance on foreign oil long term.
"Looking towards the future, there are many incentives in legislation passed by Congress in the past year for low-carbon energy that does not rely on oil and gas, including electric vehicles and heat pumps," Daigle said. "So, while the SPR [Strategic Petroleum Reserve] releases were maybe the most talked about response, there were many others."
In November, the Biden administration eased sanctions in Venezuela, allowing Chevron to produce and export oil from the South American country. A senior administration official told Politico the permission was granted in response to the decision by President Nicolas Maduro’s regime to negotiate with opposition groups. The move was expected to add supply to the global oil market and possibly ease fuel prices in the U.S.
Under Biden’s watch, the U.S. hit a new high for the number of drilling permits granted on federal lands. Domestic oil production has risen over the past two years and is expected to set a record in 2023.
Referring to the U.S. fuel situation, Hudson said Biden "caused this crisis and his only response has been to drain our strategic petroleum reserve to its lowest level since 1983."
Hudson is right that the Biden administration ordered oil released from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve, and that the stock is at its lowest level in 40 years.
However, it’s inaccurate to say that Biden alone caused an energy crisis or to suggest that the administration has done nothing to address oil and gas prices.
We rate Hudson’s tweet Mostly False.
Tweet by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, on Jan. 12, 2023.
Email exchange with Greg Steele, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson.
Email exchange with Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com.
Email exchange with Hugh Daigle, a professor in the University of Texas at Austin Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.
Associated Press, "Fact check: Biden skirts blame on inflation; GOP gas hype," March 15, 2022.
Axios, "Scoop: GOP's oil reserve amnesia," July 19, 2022.
CNN, "Fact check: Is Biden to blame for high gas prices?" June 23, 2021.
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "What's In the Inflation Reduction Act?" July 28, 2022.
Fox News, "Biden keeping his promise to ‘end fossil fuel’ increased gas prices, RSC memo shows," March 28, 2022.
NPR, "The spending bill will cut emissions, but marginalized groups feel they were sold out," Aug. 17, 2022.
The New York Times, "Republicans wrongly blame Biden for rising gas prices," March 9, 2022.
Politico, "Biden gives Chevron permit to restart Venezuelan oil sales," Nov. 26, 2022.
PolitiFact, "U.S. emergency oil reserve at lowest level since 1983," Jan. 19, 2023; "Johnson misses with claim U.S. gained energy independence under Trump and lost it under Biden," Nov. 1, 2022; "Green energy policies didn’t cause record prices at gasoline pumps," Sept. 16, 2022;
"Did Biden stop domestic oil drilling, as Herschel Walker said? Hardly," July 22, 2022; "No easy answers on reducing U.S. gas prices, despite political ads’ claims," June 15, 2022; "Pence falsely blames Biden’s nixing of Keystone pipeline for US reliance on Russian oil," March 11, 2022; "Why are oil prices so high? And what can be done about it?" Nov. 4, 2021; "Biden not to blame for rising diesel (or gas) prices," March 17, 2021.
Poynter, "Why the US is selling stockpiled oil to China," July 13, 2022.
The Washington Post, "After passage of climate bill, long road awaits," Aug. 8, 2022; "Pump shock: Why gas prices are so high," June 1, 2022; "The truth about gas prices and oil production," March 15, 2022.
Urban Institute, "What the Inflation Reduction Act did, and didn’t do, for sustainable transportation," Sept. 15, 2022.
USA Today, "Fact check: Rising gas prices due to high demand and low supply, not Biden's policies," June 10, 2021.
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