Maine Sen. Susan Collins is backing legislation that would prevent the White House from selling further Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) to the People’s Republic of China, but the U.S. Energy Secretary has said President Biden would veto a similar proposal from the House.
“The purpose of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is to limit supply disruptions and insulate our economy from energy shortages,” Collins said in a statement.
“Given the significant price increases that U.S. consumers have endured over the past two years for gasoline and home heating oil, it is inexcusable that our emergency stockpile of crude oil is being sold to dictators overseas,” she said.
The SPR has become a political flashpoint over the last three years with oil prices spiking for a host of factors, including anti-fossil fuel environmental regulations, government lockdowns over the COVID-19 pandemic, and supply disruptions stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But whatever the primary driver, the Biden administration has released oil from the SPR in ways that suggest the timing is not strategic in the American national interest, but strategic in the interest of Democratic re-election campaigns, and perhaps foreign regimes.
Last year, House Republicans said Biden’s sale of oil from the SPR might actually be helping Russia in its war against Ukraine. They also raised concerns that Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, may be receiving compensation from the sale as part of his extensive foreign business activities.
“According to DOE, the Biden Administration recently sold almost a million barrels of SPR oil to Unipec America, a subsidiary of Sinopec, a company owned by the Chinese Communist Party,” said House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Ranking Member Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) in a statement.
“In addition to concerns with Hunter Biden, the President’s son, receiving money from the deal, the decision to sell to Unipec is troubling because Chinese firms are supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Comer and Mace.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already passed a proposal similar to the one Collins is advancing on Jan. 12 by a wide margin.
But the House proposal would also increase the extent of federal land leased to oil and natural gas companies for domestic exploration and production of hydrocarbon energy. Even as skyhigh inflation, led by gas and oil prices, has undermined American well-being, Biden and congressional Democrats have mostly opposed expanding domestic energy production.
On Monday, Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters that the House bill was part of a “backward agenda” advanced by House Republicans.
She said Biden would veto the bill if it passed the Senate, a move that would limit domestic energy production and protect his administration’s ability to sell oil to Communist China-backed companies like Unipec.
“If Congress were to pass H.R. 21, the president would veto it,” said Granholm.
“He will not allow the American people to suffer because of the backwards agenda that House Republicans are advancing,” she said.
As Energy Secretary, Granholm has said her goal is to eliminate fossil fuels from American electricity production by 2035. She has also suggested that Americans who purchased expensive electric vehicles wouldn’t have to worry about high oil and gas prices in the first place.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, also a Republican, joined Collins in advancing the Senate version of the proposal, which would only restrict SPR sales to certain hostile nations. The Barrasso and Collins-backed SAFER Act would not increase federal land leases for domestic energy exploration and production.
The White House hasn’t said whether Granholm’s veto threat applies to SAFER Act.
“China is profiting from President Biden’s political abuse of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR),” said Barrasso.
“Meanwhile, America has become more vulnerable to true energy and national security emergencies,” he said.
“Our legislation will ban SPR sales to China and other hostile nations. It will also ban SPR sales to state-owned companies which purchase oil from Russia, Iran, and other nations the U.S. has sanctioned,” he said.
“Adversaries cannot be allowed to benefit from America’s security reserve,” he said.
Collins and Barrasso have been advocating for such a change to SPR policy for at least six months.
You can read the text of the bill below.